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Facing Africa 

Art ColU 
of The Toi 
Museum of 


with compliments of 

The Toledo Museum of Art 

Facing Africa 

The African 

Art Collection 

of The Toledo 

Museum of Art 

Mary Mooter Roberts 

Toledo, Ohio 

/;/ memoriam Kurt T. Luckner 

This book was published with the 
assistance ot the Andrew W. Mellon 


© 1998 The Toledo Museum of Art 

All Rights Resen'ed 

Except for legitimate excerpts customan- in 

review or scholar!}' publications, no part of this 

book may be reproduced b)' any means 

without the express written permission of the 


All the objects featured in this book are in the 
collection of The Toledo Museum of Art. 
Black-and-white photographs, color transpar- 
encies, and color slides are available. 

ISBN 0-935172-07-6 
Printed in the United States of America. All 
rights reserved under Internationa! and Pan- 
American Copyright Conventions. 


It has been a great pleasure to work on this 
exciting project with the stafl of The Toledo 
Museum of Art: Sandra E. Knudsen, who has 
overseen ever\' detail of this book from 
conception to completion, and whose encour- 
agement and vision have been inspirational; 
David W. Steadman, Director; Nadine Smith 
and her dedicated and insightfiil advisory 
committee; Nan Plummet; Christine Mack; 
Rochelle Slosser; and many others who have 
contributed to this project. I am also gratefii! to 
many distinguished colleagues who have 
generously shared their expertise and/or field 
photographs. They include: Monni Adams, 
David Binkley, Barbara Blackmun, Herbert M. 
Cole, Joseph Cornet, Eberhard Fischer, Anita 
Glaze, Lx)renz Homberger, Alisa LaGamma, 
Frederick Lamp, Babatunde Lawal, Joseph 
Nevadomsky, Nanc\' Ingram Nooter, John 
Pemberton III, Allen F. Roberts, Doran H. Ross, 
Vicki Rovine, A. Turconi, and Susan M. Vogel. 
While I am gratefiil for the assistance of all these 
friends, I alone am responsible for the content of 
this book. I dedicate this book to my husband, 
Al; our children, Sidney, Seth and Avery; and 
our parents, NantT and Robert Nooter. 

Mary Nooter Roberts 

The Toledo Museum of Art 
2445 Monroe Street 
P.O.Box 1013 
Toledo, Ohio 43697-1013 
Telephone (419) 255-8000 
Fax (419) 255-5638 

Project Supervisor: Sandra E. Knudsen 

Toledo Museum Photographs: Tim Thayer, 

Oak Park, Michigan, and Photography, Inc., 

Toledo, Ohio 

Field Photographs: As cited in the captions. 

Editor: Sandra E. Knudsen 

Designer: Rochelle Slosser 

Map design by Lorenzo Walker from the book 
Afi-icaii Art: Virgi)iia Museum of Fine Arts, by 
Richard B. Woodward. © 1994 Virginia 
Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. 

Composition: Emigre Arbitrary Bold and 
Adobe Garamond. 

Printed on Allegra Gloss lext by University 
Lithoprinters, Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

Front and Back Covers: Yoniba Epa Helmet 
Mask, attributed to Bamgbose orAreogun, 
1977.22 (see page 9). 

Title Page: Detail, Lugwu High-Backed Stool, 
1994.21 (see page 45). 


S Preface 

7 Introduction: Facing Africa 

9 Yoruba Epa Helmet Mask 

11 Chapter i: Faces of Birth and Generation 

13 Akan R-malc Figure 

1 5 Yoruba Gh\tde Society Helmet Mask 

17 Benin Queen Mother Head 

19 Owe Shrine Figure 

2 1 Chapter ?: Faces of Community and Cosmos 49 Chapter 4: Faces of Spirit and Soul 


Tenine Initiation Mask 


Dan Hornbill Mask 


Kuba Royal Mask 


Senufo Headdress 


Bangvva Night Society Mask 


Songye Spirit Receptacle 


Bamana Hunter's Shirt 


Kuba Elephant Headdress 


Guro Female Mask 


Fang Mask 


Baule/Yaure Rainbow Mask 


Kota Reliquary Figure 


Chapter 3: Faces of Honor and Prestige 


Postscript: Africa is Calling 


Baulc Pendant 


Mangbetu Slit Drum 


Akan Vessel 




Kuba Palm Wine Cup 




Yoruba Rider 


Luguru High-Backed Stool 


Kuba Woman's Skirt 












SIERRA LEONE-- Din (^"" 

Yoruba ^SS^ Bangwa 















O""©''^^ Luguru ' 









The Toledo Museum ot Art has a small 
but choice collection of the art of sub- 
Saharan Africa. Collecting began fort)' years 
ago, in 1958, with the acquisition of the Benin 
Queen Mother head (p. 17) and the Fang 
Ngontang mask (p. 59). Works ot African art 
were collected seriously by a few individuals 
and museums in Europe and the Americas 
starting only in the late nineteenth century. 
The earliest collections, like that ot the Detroit 
Institute ol Arts begun in the 1890s, were 
assembled largely because of curiosity about 
exotic cultures. In the early and middle years 
of the rwentieth centur\', avant-garde artists 
such as Pablo Picasso, Maurice Vlaminck 
(who owned the Fang mask), Amedeo 
Modigliani, and Constantin Brancusi were 
intensely influenced by the expressive power 
of sub-Saharan and other non- Western art. 
Today, we are also deeply interested in 
understanding the cultural traditions and 
aesthetic heritages of Africa and of the people 
of African descent in the "melting pot" of 
North, Central, and South America. Works like 

these by African artists provide a memorable 
way to see their cultures, representing the faces, 
social contexts, and perceptions of other 
avenues of human life. 

New accessions made it possible in 1 973 for the 
Toledo Museum to open a gallery devoted to 
the art of Africa. Works of art, all of the highest 
quality, continued to be acquired under the 
guidance of Kurt T. Luckner, curator of ancient 
art, until his untimely death in 1995. With the 
exception of the ivor\' Owo figure (p. 19), 
which dates from the sixteenth or seventeenth 
centurv', most of Toledo's objects were made in 
the nineteenth or twentieth centuries. The 
sometimes harsh effects of a tropical climate 
have caused the loss of many earlier works of 
African art in wood. 

For many years Toledo visitors have requested 
an up-to-date, popular book about our African 
art collection. The fall 1998 exhibition "Soul of 
Africa: African Art from the Han Coray 
Collection" provided the impetus to publish. 
We are grateful to Mary Nooter Roberts for a 

stimulating manuscript and tor her on-going 
counsel as we reinterpret and reinstall our 
African art. We are also thankful to the 
community advisory group that worked to 
define the goals of the book that became Fticing 
Africa and to assess its design and text: Deborah 
Carlisle, David Gulp, Linda Nieman, Kim 
Penn, Shirley Sebree, and Nadine Smith. They 
encouraged us to tr\' to focus on the needs of 
families with children and of educators whose 
students want to understand other cultures, as 
well as those of gallery visitors. We owe a 
special debt to Mrs. Carlisle's fifth-grade class at 
Fall-Meyer Elementar)' School for several lively 
workshops that ruthlessly evaluated how the 
Museum displays, interprets, and teaches 
African art and culture. We hope the readers of 
this book will enjoy the process of "facing" 
Africa — "turning toward," "confronting," and 
"connecting with" the art and people of 
Africa— as much as we have. 

David W. Steadman, Director 

Facing Africa 

It is your head that you have to worship.... 
Your head is more important than anything. 

Your head is what you should pray to. 
Anytime you want to pray ... take a kola nut 
and put it on the forehead, not the chest .... 
Ones head is more important than any part 
of the body.... It is the controller of the body 
... it is destiny. 

( Yd ruba saying)' 

This book presents the many faces 
of Africa through a celebration of 
The Toledo Museum of Art's African art 
collection. The masks and figures, pendants 
and dolls, shrine figures and altarpieces, of the 
Toledo Museum's collection depict faces, heads, 
and both human and animal features that forge 
bridges bervveen ourselves and the world. The 
faces in this book are those ot mothers, 
children, heroes, queens, noblemen, spirits, and 
animals. Through an analysis of their exquisite 
forms and multifaceted fiinctions, this book 
teaches about African art and culture while also 
teaching about ourselves. The faces ot these 
works are depictions of universal human 
concerns, such as birth, education, entertain- 
ment, governance, prestige, power, and death. 
As we face the works in this collection, we face 
Africa across the Atlantic; and in that mirror we 
find eloquent reflections of a shared humanity. 

Faces and heads are central to African artistic 
expression. Some ethnic groups in Africa have 
complex philosophies pertaining to the 
immense importance of the head and the life 
force that it contains. Luba peoples in central 
Africa define the head as the seat of wisdom, 
power, and intellect; and in spirit possession 

rites the spirit comes to "mount" the head of a 
diviner, offering him or her enlightened vision 
and divine insight." Among Yoruba peoples of 
Nigeria, all people are thought to have both an 
"inner head " and an "outer head.' The inner 
head is the seat of intentions, perceptions, and 
intuitive knowledge, and the locus of a person's 
essential nature {iwa), while the outer head is 
the vehicle for the our^vardly expressive nature. 
A Yoruba proverb states, "May my inner head 
not spoil my outer one."' 

Shrines, where works of art are kept, are the 
faces of divinit)' or the "faces of worship." They 
are "places of meeting, of facing the gods and 
locating oneself relative to the cosmos."' 
Similarly, masks are threshold devices that form 
bridges between ourselves and others, between 
past and fijture, bervveen nature and culture, 
and finally, bervveen this world and the other. 
The diverse faces and figures in this collection- 
sculpted from wood and ivory-, cast in brass and 
gold, laden with copper and beads-attest to the 
masterful ways that African artists express the 
deepest dialectics of human experience. 
Together, the inner and outer aspects of these 
works impart lite-enhancing values to those 
who behold them. 

When a Luba divinrr ofiht Democratic Republic of Congo 
takes possession of a spirit, she tions a beaded head/iress called 
nkaka to contain the spirit in her heaA. Nkaka is the name for 
a pangolin, a scaly anieater in Africa whose tough. overLipping 
scales are impervious to preddttors even as fierce as leopards. 
Once possessed, the diviner uses her enhanced pourrs of 
perception and cLtirvoyance to determine the cause of a clients 
misfortune and to prescribe a remedy. Photo: Mary Nooter 
Roberts. I9S9. 

Facing Page: Orangun-ILi. a Yoruba king, wearing his great 
beaded crown which symbolizes the spiritual 'inner head' of 
the king and links him with his royal ancestors, who lutir 
Joined the pantheon of gods. The inside of the crown has been 
consecrated with secret medicinal herbs to augment tlie king's 
Me. or life force. The occasion is tlv Odun On. iht frstitvl fiir 
the king Plioto. John Pembenon III. 1984. 

Yoruba Peoples, Nigeria 

Attributed to Bamgbose (Osi Ilorin, 
Opin, Ekiti region, d. 1920) or 
Areogun (Osi Ilorin, Opin, Ekiti 
region, ca. 1880-1954) 

Mid 19* to early lO'i- centuiy 

Wood, pigment; H. 49 7, in. 
(125.7 cm), Weight 24 Ik. (10.9 kg) 

Purchased with fiinds from the 
Liblxjy Endowment, Gift of 
Edward Drummond Libbey, 


The Mother of All 

The face facilitates communion with the 

supernatural For what has a "face" is 


African artists give a face to the invisible 
forces of the universe and to the tenuous 
but sacred links that bind humans to one 
another and to more inaccessible realms. This 
virtuoso sculpture has been attributed by 
scholars to rvvo artists of ditlcrcnt generations. 
While it was once thought to be the work ot 
Areogun, the openness of this mask's design is 
more characteristic of Areogun's teacher of 
sixteen years, master sculptor Bamgbose, who 
died in 1920.'' Often, a master e.xecuted the 
principal stages of a work and delegated 
completion to his assistants. It is possible that 
this mask is a work by more than one hand. 

Among Yoruba peoples, artists are highly 
valued not only as master craftsmen but also as 
ritual specialists. They are remembered and 
honored through eloquent poems called oriki 
that praise panicular qualities and contribu- 
tions of the individual sculptor: 

He car\es hard wood as though he were 
carving a soft calabash.... 

The expert, whose sculptures dazzle the 

One who knows how to carve appropri- 
ately for kings. (Praise song for Areogun) 

The importance of the head and face as 
metaphors tor a community are explicit in this 
monumental mask. It possesses the many faces 
of mothers, children, men, and women in a 
composition chat emphasizes hierarchy, 
support, and interdependence. The central 
image of a mother of twins alludes to extraordi- 
nar)- fertility-, longe%iry. and the interrelation- 
ships of nurturing and sheltering, supporting 

and sustaining, that perpetuate and promise 
societal growth and continuin'. Below the 
composition is another face shaped like a pot— 
a somber, bold, stylized face — a face of 
constancA' that represents the spiritual base of 
societ)'. This head with nvo faces looking in 
opposite directions represents the "inner face" 
{oju inn), the ancestral bedrock upon which all 
of life's temporal transformations take place. 

Epa masquerades are staged to remember the 
achievements of long-deceased members of the 
communirv'. The sculptures depict idealized 
individuals who embodied culturally significant 
values during their lifetimes. The female figure 
emerges last because all socien' depends upon 
woman's power: "It is she who holds within her 
womb "powers concealed' [egiingiin) and the 
fijture promise of communirv'. "* 

Twins are highly symbolic to Yoruba people, 
who have the highest twinning rate in the 
world. Twins are thought to have superhuman 
attributes that can bring both goodness and 
evil. Twins are referred to as "rvvo gods, who 
entered the world with many followers" and as 
"dual spirits ... who open doors on earth and in 
heaven."'" Here, rvvo male rvvins on their 
mother's lap are positioned above rvvo female 
figures, also perhaps rvvins. Just as the female 
twins symbolically uphold the male twins, the 
males shelter the females by holding either 
offering trays or cooling fans above their heads. 

Every detail of this sculpture holds meaning. 
The mother wears a large brass collar of a 
devotee of the goddess, Osun, "owner of all 
waters/bestower of children."" The hairsrvle 

worn by the mother and her male rvvins is a 
priestly sf)'le called agogo. The marks called pele 
on the cheeks are cosmetic markings that 
indicate a high aesthetic consciousness. The 
central female is flanked around the base by 
another female figure called Olumeye, meaning 
"one who knows honor" and referring to a 
devotee and messenger of the gods, and by a 
male drummer who intones celebratorj' praises 
invoked by this exrraordinar\' work of art. 

The sculpture celebrates both the ase (life-force) 
and ewa (beaut)') that the gods have bestowed 
upon this woman. Yoruba aesthetic concepts 
are rich and poetic, with allusion to the inner 
and outer aspects of beauty, goodness, and 
character (/ww), and to the wonder, innovation, 
invention, genius, and creativity {am) of the 
artist. All of these aspects together make a 
masquerade, with its visual and multisensor)' 
elements, a transformative aesthetic experience. 

What do we call food for the eyes? 

What pleases the eyes as prepared \am 
flour satisfies the stomach? 

The ev'es have no other food than the 
spectacle. (Adeboye Babalola)'- 

Chapter 1 

Faces of Birth 
and Generation 


Akan legend 

At some time in the distant past, a 
young Asante woman named Akua 
("Wednesday born") was having 
trouble conceiving a child (ba). To 
solve the problem she consulted a 
local priest, who divined that Akua 
should commission a woodcarving 
of a little child. The priest 
instructed her to treat the carving 
as if it were a living infant. When 
Akua appeared in public with the 
carving on her back, some in the 
village pointed and teased, "Oh, 
look at Akuas child!" But 
eventually Akua became pregnant 
and gave birth to a beautiful, 
healthy little girl. Her success 
encouraged others struggling with 
infertility to follow the same path, 
and all subsequent carvings came 
to be called akua ba in her honor."' 

Female Figure: Akua ba 

Asante Group, Akan Peoples, Ghana 
Late 1 9''' to early 20''' century 
Wood, beads, glass, string and 
metal wire; H. 1 1 '/: in. (29.2 cm); 
W.ofhead 4 '/Kin. (10.5 cm) 

Purchased with ftinds from the 
Libbey Endowment, Gift of 
Edward Drummond Libbey, 

Wednesday's Child 

A child is like a rare bird. 

A child is precious like coral. 

A child is precious like brass. 

You cannot buy a child in rhe market. 

Not tor all the money in the world. 

Only a child brings us joy. 

A child is the beginning and 
end of- happiness.'* 

The importance of children as a source 
of richness and prosperir\' in Africa has 
given rise to art forms tor coping with problems 
oi sterilit)' and inhint mortaiit}'. One of the 
most poetic of forms is the ukiia ba female 
figure. The akua ba is a sign of hope, aspiration, 
wishes, and prayers. It is obtained from a 
sculptor either by a woman who hopes to 
conceive, or by one who needs or wants added 
protection during her pregnane)'. 

The form of the akua ba is one of utmost 
simplicity and elegant minimalism. A large flat 
round head surmounts what is usually a simple 
stick-like form with arms, but no legs. The 
figures generally have stylized facial features and 
adornments of beads around the neck, waist, 
and sometimes the wrists and ears. Here, the 
figure is more elaborate, possessing an entire 
body. Such complete forms are rare, and this 
one bears a striking resemblance to one in the 
Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. no. 
1979.206.75) that was probably made by the 
same artist. The figure has delicate asymmetri- 
cal beautification marks on the cheeks and an 
unusual geometric design on the back of the 
head, which may relate to a hairstyle pattern or 
to a protective symbol. The complete figure 
may have been a commission from a wealthy 
patron, for example, a diviner or a chief.'' 

Once the figure was sculpted, a woman was 
to treat the figure as if it were alive. She was to 
carry it as all young children are carried, on her 
back, tucked into her wrapper with just the 
head appearing above the cloth. She was told 
to feed the figure, bathe it, sleep with it, and 
give it gifts — such as waist beads and beaded 
earrings and necklaces. In addition to its 
instrumentality, the figure also upholds 
Asante ideals of beauty, health, and goodness 
in the high round forehead and the finely 
detailed coifRire. 

Akua ba is such a popular image that it has 
become an iconic signifier both of Ghanaian 
nationalism and of Africa itself Akua bas have 
been placed on Ghanaian stamps, Smithsonian 
patade floats, American greeting cards, and in 
many contemporary' art forms. There is some 
speculation as to the formal resemblance that 
akua ba have to the ancient Egyptian 
hieroglyph for the key of life.''' 

Aktm baftpim and other offering in a public shrine to 
Tano. a river or water deity. Photo: Herbert M. Cole, 1976. 


Gelede Society Helmet Mask 

Yoriiba Peoples, Ketu Region, 
Republic of Benin 
Early to mid 20''' century 
Wood, paint; H. 20 in. (50.8 cm) 
Purchased with funds from the 
Libbey Endowment, Gift of 
Edward Dmmmond Libbey, 

Our Mothers 

Those who have children, may then- children live to old age. 

May the pregnant ones deliver safely. May our elders live long. 

The one with the beautiful eyes. "My Mother" of mothers 

Who kills stealthily, and walks surreptitiously. 

"My Mother" of mothers. 

The entire community is in your hands. 

(Fayomi, 1982)'^ 

Yoriiba peoples apply human characteristics 
to all aspects of existence through 
metaphors of the face, for the face has the 
power to embody mysteries. A finely delineated 
female head surmounted by the scene of a 
blacksmith's workshop is the subject oi this 
powerRil mask, once used in performances by 
members of the Yoruba Gelede Society. The 
Gelede spectacle is a public display ot colorful 
masks danced by men to propitiate elderly, 
ancestral, or deified women thought to possess 
heightened spiritual knowledge who are called 
"our mothers. " Their transcendent power and 
supreme life force (ase) can unfold both 
positively in the mystical creation and 
nurturing of life and negatively in destructive 
and nefarious witchcraft. Yoruba men stage 
these masquerades both to celebrate and to 
placate "our mothers." 

All Gelede masks consist of a regal human face, 
"the fece of equanimity,"" surmounted by a 
tray that serves as a stage for projecting the 
ideals of the Gelede sociery. The varien,' of 
Gelede imagery is dazzling, and often serves as 
social commcntar)'. Difl^erent Gelede societies 
compete to invent the most innovative and 
relevant mask forms. In this case, the scene 
within the house depicts a blacksmith at work 

with his assistants. While Gelede masks honor 
all the professions, metalworking is a highly 
charged metaphor for concepts of birth and 
generation, for blacksmiths are considered to be 
masters of transformation and metamorphosis. 
Their abilit)' to change raw metal into useful 
weapons and tools is often compared with the 
act of creation itself a process almost as magical 
and mystical as birth itself the secret of which 
belongs to women alone. 

The contribution of iron to human civilization 
is evident in one Yoruba narrative which 
recounts that when the gods first arrived on 
earth, the primeval forest was so dense as to be 
impenetrable, but Ogun (Lord of Iron) used his 
iron cudass to cut a path through it."As such, 
Ogun's iron has enabled humaniry to "trans- 
form the face of the earth" and "to give the 
earth a cultured face."'" Interestingly, Ogun is 
also responsible for the cosmetic markings that 
identify cultivated Yoruba people: "Ogun 
makes the pele marks on my face. Ogun makes 
the abaja marks on my cheeks."'' Due to their 
wondrous powers, blacksmiths are "the 
children" of the mothers [who] are believed to 
possess a spiritual life force (ase) equal or 
superior to that of the deities. "-- 

Colorfiil Gelede masks from Iboorb with niperftruaures in 
the form of elephants, a lion, and an airplane to signify 
political might, royal power, and modem technology, 
respectively, in honor of "our mothers. "Photo: Courtesy of 
Babatunde Lawal. 1982. 


Queen Mother Head 

Edo Peoples, Benin City, Nigeria 

Late 19* century 

Brass; H. 18 V: in. (47.0 cm) 

Purchased with funds from the 

Libbey Endowment, Gift of 

Edward Drummond Libbey, 


Warrior Woman 

No woman but Idia, mother of Esigie, ever 
went to war; 

Idia, Mother of Esigie, fought with a 
double-edged sword; 

Idia, the womb of pure white chalk. 

(Praises and songs for Idia)'^ 

Mothers are celebrated in African art not 
only for their gifts ot fecundity and 
nurturing, but also for their roles in politics, 
warfire, and diplomac)'. In the early sixteenth 
centuPt', King Esigie ot the great Benin 
kingdom created the title lye Oba in honor of 
his mother, Idia. Idia had helped him to secure 
the throne, conquer the neighboring Igala 
kingdom, and maintain a stable, prosperous 
reign. To celebrate her resourcefulness and 
special occult and military powers, Esigie 
gave her a splendid court of her own, with 
independent authority and her own vassals. 
This title has been perpetuated by subsequent 
Obas and continues to the present day. Every 
woman who holds the title lye Oba aspires to 
embody the ideals of Idia, the first titled 
Queen Mother.-' 

Upon the death ol a king's mother, the king 
establishes an altar in her honor in a courtyard 
within her palace. The centerpiece is a cast brass 
head of this type, depicting the lye Oba 
wearing a coral bead conical crown and a thick 
coral collar. The wearing of coral was restricted 
to the king, his mother, and the war chief and 
thus represents lye Obas very high status. A 
semicircular opening in the top ot the head, 
behind the peak, formerly supported a large 

carved ivory tusk. The high pointed crown 
reflects a hairstyle worn by the Obas wives 
and mother, known as the "chickens beak," 
in which the hair is adorned with coral 
ornaments, creating beautifully striking color 
contrasts. The Queen Mother's high projection 
is symbolic of her enhanced supernatural 
powers,-^ and is higher and more pointed 
than that of any other woman. 

Queen Mother heads were made by the 
lost-wax method ot brass casting, perfected 
by artists of the Benin Kingdom. This head 
is from the Late Period (eighteenth to late 
nineteenth centur)'), when the heads empha- 
sized the textured patterning of the coral 
regalia, setting oft the smooth, organic quality 
of the face. The large all-seeing eyes are inlaid 
with iron irises, and the raised marks above 
each eye are gender markings called ikharo. 

Idias power, as embodied by this regal 
sculpture, is a subde female balance to the 
Obas direct and virile authority and reflects 
the king's admiration for his mother's use of 
occult knowledge on behalf of her son.-'' The 
interdependency ot male and female powers 
and women's special proximity to the spirit 
world are eloquently celebrated by the 
Queen Mother head. 

Wives oj ttif Hfiiin kni^ iOha) wtutrnig ihc "clm-hi-fis beak 
hairstyle, with coral adornmenti attached to the hair. 
Photo: Joseph Nevadomsky. 


Shrine Figure 

Yoruba Peoples, Kingdom 
of Owo, Nigeria 
16''' to 17''" century 
Ivory stained with camwood 
powdenH. 7'Vu,in. (20.1 cm), 
Max. Diam. 3 'A in. (8.2 cm) 
Purchased with funds from the 
Libbey Endowment, Gift of 
Edward Drummond Libbey, 

A Messenger of the Spirits 

No god blesses a man 

Without the consent of his Ori [destiny]. 

Ori, 1 hail you. 

You ... allow children to be born alive. 

A person whose sacrifice is accepted by his own Ori 

Should rejoice exceedingly. 

(Yoruba verse)'^ 

A face can be as elusive as destiny itself 
Here, what appears to be a female figure 
is no ordinan,' \vom;in. Although she has a skirt, 
breasts, plaited h;iir, ;ind t-emaie gender markings 
above the eyes, she is not a woman in the strictest 
sense. In the great Owo Kingdom of the sixteenth 
to eighteenth centuries, a king (Olowo) was 
known to dress as a woman on certain ceremonial 
occasions, such as the annual Igogo testiv;ii. A 
king should embody all aspects oi his people, and 
images of the king therefore conflate past and 
present, male and female elements."*' The dual 
gender of power is evident in the king's festival 
attire — a Rill skin draped with beaded bands, 
necklaces, bracelets, and wide red shotilder cloths 
that hang from the shoulder diagonally across the 
torso. Only the king and his "brother" may don 
this garb to commemorate female ancestors and 
the hidden side ot their own power.-'' , 

The Owo kingdom was located about halfway 
between the ancient Yoruba spiritual center of 
Ile-Ue iind Benin Cit)-, capital of the powerful 
expansionist state that flourished from the 
founeenth to sixteenth cenmries. This exceptional 
Owo figure reflects both Yoruba and Benin 
influence (see pp. 1 5 and 17), and may have 
been made b\' an Owo anist tor a Benin patron, 
as the forehead markings surest. 

It is probable that the figure belonged to the chief 
priest of Oromila, the Benin form of the Yoruba 
divination cult called Ifa, an ancient art of 
problem-solving used to clarify an understanding 
of one's destiny {ori). Ita was introduced by the 
god Orunmila, who plays a central role in the 
founding myths of Owo. After kings, Ifa diviners 
are the most important owners and users of ivory. 
The figure is larger, however, than most Ifa ivory 
implements, and may have been intended for 
placement on the Oromila priest's shrine. The 
figure's reddish patina is the result of years of 
anointing with camwood powder.'" 

The figure tapers gracefially to a point at the top, 
where she holds an otrin pot on the head, a 
receptacle for herbal concoaions and sacred 
water. The pot alludes to woman's effectiveness 
in soothing and cooling the gods, influencing 
their decisions to favor humankind.'' The vessel 
emanating from her head also puns on the idea 
of a spirimal projeaion and a special conneaion 
with the gods. Her upper torso nudity is a sign of 
communication with the deities, as is her implied 
kneeling posture — the most important way to 
salute the gods. 0>% or destiny, is called "that 
which is received kneeling down." In a gesture 
of supplication .ind honor, a person goes before 
a diviner or a shrine to face the gods, ;ind thus 
confront one's destiny.*- 


Chapter 2 

Faces of 
and Cosmos 

'r on'? ^- 

Initiation Mask: Kabemba 

Temne Peoples, Sierra Leone 
19"'' to early 20"'' century 
Wood with applied and incised 
sheet copper; H. 20 in. (50.8 cm) 
Purchased with funds from the 
Libbey Endowment, Gift of 
Edward Drummond Libbey, 

Boys to Men 

It is the Hast thai has power. Wc get sun 

Worn (he I'.ast, and all other good things. 

It is troni clie liast that the 

ancestors came. 

( I eninc saying)" 

Many faces in the Toledo MiLseums 
African collection .ire m;isks .issociated 
with preparing youth for adulthood and 
reinhircing societiil values through education, 
entertainment, historical ct)mnientar\', social 
control, litig-ation, and commemoration ot 
ancestral and larger spirimal forces. Traditional 
education in Afriai often involved a series of 
rites that transformed young girls and boys into 
women ,ind men, respectively, while also teaching 
a sense of moral strength and values as well as an 
appreciation and respect for the generarions of 
ancestors who preceded the living on earth. 

Temne Kabemba masks served to reinforce links 
tienvcen initiation and chieftainc)', and benveen 
the living and the dc-ad during male initiauon rites 
that included circumcision and the acquisition of 
secret, esoteric knowledge. Among Temne 
peoples, initiation is referred to ;is "the kingdom 
(Rlibai) of lemne, in which young males (ambai) 
are 'crowntxi' into manhood in a metaphoric 
parallel to royal coronation."" The central spirit 
figure during the rites is a mask called Kabemba, 
meaning "ancestor," that is owned by the 
circumciser but is danced by another official. 
Kabemba is a bcnc-%'olent spirit, who aas as a 
spiritual midwife, leading the boys on the seventh 
day to the riverside for their ritual washing and 
the application of protective substances to their 

bodies. Witter is a s\'mbol of binh from which the 
neophytes stru^le to free themselves and appears 
in songs throughout the initiation: 

^'hcii I shall see water 
My mind will hang like a life-buoy. 
Let them go tell my mother; 
Tomorrow we must go to the river. 
(Temne song) '^ 

The copper and/or brass strip decoration is 
the distinguishing feature of Kabemba masks. 
The strips, cut with triangular motifs, are 
incised and stamped with circle and wave 
patterns said to be purely decorative, although 
deeper layers of meaning must not be 
excluded. In this area indigenous writing 
systems existed prior to colonialism and were 
used by the Poro secret association as a means 
of transmitting arcane knowledge. 

The copious use of metal may relate to the 
metaphor of chieftainc)-, for those who have 
successfiill)- p.Lssed into m.mhocxf are referred to as 
"chiefs ' and cirr)' st;iffs that mimic the form of 
the paramount chief's stafl. The gleaming, radiant 
face of Kabemba, the ancestral spirit presiding 
over the initiation, reminds the young novices of 
the larger visage of scxien- and spiritualit)- in 
which they view their oun reflections."' 

Initiates rehearsing songs and dances during a RUbai initiation 
among the Temne of Sierra Leone. An unfinished Kabemba 
mask is held up before an initiate's fare, while a dramatic 
Katomla fiber mash stands behind. Seven initiates stand before 
the initiation residence in the sacred grove. In the foreground, 
the master of initiation (Semamasa) leads the singing while an 
initiate (Sema) beats on his bamboo gong. Photo: Frederick 
Lamp. 1976. 


Helmet Mask Bwoom 

Kuba Peoples, Democratic 

Republic of Congo 

Late 1 9''' century 

Wood, leather, brass, fabric, 

cowrie shells, and beads; H. 25 in. 

(63.5 cm) 

Purchased with Rinds from the 

Libbey Endowment, Gift of 

Edward Drummond Libbey, 


King and Commoner 

It is not I who created your title. It is 

your Cjod who arranged it Irom before 

your birth, that you would hold this tide. 

1 am like the messenger of CJod [...]. 

Kingship is not a thing of the Crown 

Council. Kingship. God created it. 

(Kuba King talking to his 
titleholder in 1953)^^ 

This niiisk, with its massive proportions 
and powerfiil features, is a historical archive. 
For Kuba peoples, histor)' is an important 
intellectiuil acrivin- ;ind the most ancient histories 
are considered to be the most prestigious. History 
is not only preserved and transmitted through 
or,il traditions, but also through masquerade 
performances during which significant historical 
episodes are reenacted. In this sense, masks are 
memory devices to stimulate remembrance of the 
pxst in wav-s that are relevant to the present. From 
the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, the Kuba 
were org;inized its a confederation of more than 
seventeen ethnic groups united under the aegis 
of a lineage of kings from the Bushoong dynasty. 

This mask once formed part of a triad of masks 
that was danced at initiations, funerals, and other 
public ceremonies to dramatize the origins of' 
Kuba kingship ;ind to celebrate the culnire heroes 
of Kuba socierv'. Gilled Bwoom, this large helmet 
mask was second in the hierarchy after the king's 
mask, Mwash aMbooy (see p. 57), which 
symbolizes both the creator ancestor, Woot, and 
an elder of gre-at wisdom and experience. The 
third m; in the trilog)- is a female mask, Ngady 
mwaash, which may depict the king's sister- 
consort with whom the king is said to have had 
incestuous relations that gave birth to humanit)'. 
Bw(K)m is variously described as a commoner, a 

prince, or a subversive clement at court who 
competes with Mwash aMbooy for the love of 
Ngady mwaash. Whereas the mask to represent 
Woot is worn by the king and buried with him at 
death, the Bwoom m;isk is kept by roy;il line;iges 
as a permanent s\'mbol of family continuit)'.''' 

Explanations for Bwoom's pronounced forchaid 
state that it depicts a prince with a genetic trait 
called steeple skull, or the head of aTshwa P\'gmy. 
Tshwa were the first inhabitants of the area and still 
continue to recognize their rights. It is possible that 
the mask represented conflicts between ruling elites 
and native peoples who preceded Kuba kingship. 

The mask's forehead and mouth are covered w ith 
leaves of metal, and metal strips delineate the 
cheekbones. Cowries and beads accenmate the 
bold volumes of the mask, which would have 
been worn with a dramatic costume of a painted 
raffia tunic with fresh cut leaves around the hips. 
Feathers were probably attached to the top of the 
head, and parrot feathers were affixed under the 
chin, while the entire outfit was adorned with 
fluttering yellow palm fronds. 

Bwoom masks generally perform exuberantly, but 
with airefuU)' executed dance steps that tell stories 
and recall p;ist events for audience members who 
recognize the historical allusions with communal 
pride and satisfaaion.'"' 

Bwoom diiiues with Mwash aMbooy, the king) mini: i>i a 
historical dramatizatio)! of power reLitionships that helps 
spectators to recall significant events of the Kuba past. Photo: 
A. Turconi, 1974, courtesy of Joseph Comet and Monni 


Night Society Mask 

Bangwa Peoples, Cameroon 
19''' to 20''' century 
Wood, organic materials; 
H. 16 Vi in. (41.9 cm) 
Purchased with funds from the 
Libbey Endowment, Gift of 
Edward Drummond Libbey, 

Guardian of the Night 

Secrecy is the essence of politics, for it 

implies a hierarchy of privilege and 
dependency; some people know some- 
thing, others do not. Secrecy is power, 
for those who know secrets may with- 
hold or reveal their knowledge.'" 

Animal or human, menacing or benign, 
this mask invokes ambiguity and 
mystery in a hauntingiy deliberate way. Its 
purpose was to maintain and enforce social 
order in the Bangwa Kingdom, where it 
functioned as an agent of governance. The 
mask was one of many sacred objects belonging 
to a secret regulator,' association called the 
Night Societ)', so named because it holds its 
meetings at midnight and carries out policing 
duties in the darkness. The Night Societ}' was 
devoted to the pursuit ot criminals, the 
eradication of negative forces in the commu- 
nity, and the punishment of transgressions. The 
organization was a branch oi royal authority, a 
kind of secret police whose primary instrument 
of power was its anonymity, preserved through 
the wearing of masks that concealed the 
wearers' identities.^' , 

Bangwa Night Societ)' masks have a simian 
appearance, with large hollow eyes, bared teeth, 
and almost skeletal features. Yet, like Bamana 
Komo masks, the "mask ... is made to look like 
animal. But is not an animal, it is a secret."'*' 
The specific animal references are not as 
important as the aura of mystery that it 
conveys and the fear that it inspires through 
its shadowed eves and encrusted surface. 

The masks are considered to have profound 
supernatural powers. Fastidious ritual 
precautions must be taken when handling 
or wearing the masks, which are thought too 
powerful to come into direct contact with the 
human head. They are, therefore, carried on 
the shoulder, and the dancer's head is veiled 
by a cloth. 

The Night Society mask articulates the 
important role that secrecy plays in many 
African societies as a political and aesthetic 
strategy for the control and protection of 
knowledge and power. Objects associated with 
secrets are often connected to night and 
darkness, and obscurity is deployed as an 
aesthetic means of handling the dangerous yet 
creative powers of the unseen. Although the 
masks carry out most of their duties at night, 
they also appear for public davtime ceremonies 
and funerals of kings and society officers, 
demonstrating the way that an aesthetic of 
obscurity is often matched with one of clarity 
to convey secret knowledge that is simulta- 
neously concealed and revealed.'' Bangwa 
Night Society masks symbolize the heightened 
spiritual awareness and the vigilance of the 
organization, which "provides the watchful eyes 
for the king and the kingdom. "''■' 


Hunter's Shirt: Bogolanfini 

Bamana Peoples, Beledougou 

Region, Mali 

Mid 20th century 

Cotton with mud-dyed painted design; 

33 'Ax 3172 in. (85. 1x80 cm) 

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard H. 

Slater, 1981.133 


Secrets of the Wilderness 

We write books to disseminate knowl- 
edge; the Bamana paint cloths 
to conceal knowledge. '^ 

We can let you in ... but no one can 
show you the way out. 

(Bamana warning to new initiates)''' 

An eye-aitching garment of contrasting 
black iind white patterns is considered by 
Biuiiiuia people to be a "doaiment," because it 
carries accumulated knowledge belonging to 
society. The textile is encoded through design 
motifs whose nonrepresentarional, irregular 
pattems embody secrets.' The shirt is a reservoir of 
esoteric knowledge associated with hunting, a 
profession both respected and feared by Bamana.^" 
Not only is hunting dangerous, it implies 
penetration of the wilderness, a domain of 
unprediaable obscurit)' ;ind (X)tentially devastating 
powers. A hunter must be a person of extraordinary 
self-knowledge, with an acute perception of his 
ambitions, goals, and capabilities. 

Hunters' shirts are worn on ceremonial occasions. 
Some Bamana hunters' shirts are literally covered 
with amulets, claws, and charged homs containing 
"secret things " that possess lite force [nyanur). These 
"artifacts of the hunt" are sewn to a plain brown 
tunic or to one that is made is of mud-dyed 
bogoLi>ifini do^. The charm-laden shirts reflea the 
hunter's specialized knowledge referred to as the 
"science of the trees, " which accumulates over his 
lifetime. But they also serve as talismans to enhance 
the hunter's prowess and as deterrents against 
dangerous forces. The shirts are considered to be so 
potent that they must never be worn by another 
fierson after the original owner's death.''' 

A shirt made from bogolanfini that is not covered 
with attachments is still considered to be a highly 
charged amulet. Although bogolanfini is the 
traditional sign of non-Islamic status for Bamana 
people, the grid format of the geometric designs 
found on bogolanfini shirts may derive fi'om 
Islamic shirts covered with magic squares used as 
healing and empowering devices throughout the 
western Sudan.* The upper portion of this shirt 
shows cross-shaped motift framed by boxes, and 
the entire design field is enclosed by a border in the 
same way that African Islamic holy men create 
"magic squares," or grids that contain sacred letters 
fi-om the Arabic alphabet with numerological, 
astrological, and geometric aspects. 

Unlike the male-dominated praaice of magic 
squares in Afriain Islam, however, bogolanfini 
artists are elderly women who guard the knowledge 
of the profound meaning of the designs painted 
into the cloth. And the designs accommodate a 
specifically Bamana ethos about silence, ambiguity, 
and the dangers of speech and the word. Through 
geometric designs that form a rigorous graphic 
system of communication, bogolanfini embody 
medicinal knowledge, historical facts, and moral 
precepLs.^' The interrelationship of male and 
female domains comes into pla\' here, where 
masailine mastery of the magically potent 
wildemess is translated by women into a wearable 
talismanic magic of secret knowledge and 
supernatural efficacy. 

NakuHte Diarra is a welt-kiiowti artist tn an important 
bogolanfini-producing area (the Beledougou region north of 
Bamako). Here, she is applying designs on a concentrated mud 
mixture to a cotton tunic of a type worn by hunters. The cloth 
has been soaked in a bath of leaves, which serves as a fixative. 
Those areas where mud is painted on, dried, and washed off 
are darkened to create a strong contrast with areas left 
unpainted. As she works. Nakunte holds the cloth on her lap 
draped over an inverted calabash bowl, creating a rounded 
surface on which she paints carefiilly ordered pattems. Photo: 
Victoria Rovine, 1993. 


Mask: Gu 

Guro Peoples, Ivory Coast 
Early 20* century 
Wood with traces of painr, 
H. 12 'A in. (31.1 cm) 
Purchased with funds from the 
Libbey Endowment, Gift of 
Edward Drummond Libbey, 

Brave Female 

Zamble, Gu, Zauli, and Gye are like animals 

that have been caught in the forest by a 

hunter. [When] the hunter brought Gye back 

to the village, Gye showed the hunter many 

magic potions. Nowadays, there are Gyes 

everywhere, but rarely is there such 

strong medicine. 

(Guro artist Botis account 
of a mask legend)^- 

An evocation of feminine beauty, Gu 
belongs ro a grouping of ancient masks 
called )'// chat employ metaphors from the 
animal world to comment on human 
comportment. Yu masks are owned collectively 
by himilies who dance them tor special events 
or to mourn a deceased member of the 
community. Diviners may advise patients to 
make sacrifices to the masks in order to reverse 
misfortune or to ensure health and protection. 
The masks are surrounded by awe and mystery, 
and many stories are associated with their 
origins and significance. In the northern region, 
the principal characters are Zamble (beautiful 
male), Zauli (grotesque and wild male), and 
Gu (brave female). Gye — who dances alone — 
is the most powerful mask of all. 

In performance, the first three masks dress and 
dance in ways that evoke their natures. First 
Zamble appears as the gracefiil, male youth. 
His mask combines the elegant horns of the 
antelope with the jaws of a leopard, and his 
dance is noble and energetic. Zamble is 
honored by audiences who consider his 
performance to lend authority to important 
events. Gu is Zamble's wife, and the ideal of 
femininity and grace. Her costume consists of 
an antelope skin upon her back and ankle 

rattles. When Gu appears, the drums cease 
to play, and she dances only to flute and 
vocal music. Her dance steps contrast sharply 
with those of her spouse in their restraint 
and composure. 

The third mask to appear is Zamble's wild, 
tempestuous brother, Zauli, whose rough 
behavior and appearance are intended as an 
anti-aesthetic against which to highlight the 
beauty and grace of the first two masks. When 
the three masks are away from the sacred shrine 
where they are stored, they are represented by 
an accumulation of sacrificial offerings, 
including feathers, bones, and the whip that is 
used to clear the dance arena when the masks 
are performing.''' 

This particular Gu mask is exceptionally 
elegant. It is unusual for its horns and the line 
down the center of the forehead, which reflect 
the neighboring Bete style to the southwest.^" 
The fineness and delicacy of the mask, the 
smooth polished surface, and the surprising 
asymmetr)' of the intricate scarification patterns 
below each eye make this a masterful rendering 
of Gu. Gu's form and her movement dramatize 
a belief articulated by a Guro weaver, that 
"nobody likes to live without beautiful things." 

A horned Gu mask with a painted red surface 
performs a gracefuL ethereal dance to convey her 
fminine beauty and strength. Photo: Lorenz 
Homberger, 1983-85. 


Rainbow Mask 

Baule or Yaure Peoples, Ivory Coast 
Early to mid 20''' century 
Wood, metal plates, metal tacks; 
H. 17 7, in. (45.1cm) 
Purchased with funds from the 
Libbey Endowment, Gift of 
Edward Drummond Libbey, 

Warming the Dance Space 

A common nickname for the most 

beloved masks is alie kora, meaning 

"dinner is burning," because these masks 

almost always appear late in the day, and 

women who rush to watch rhem often 

abandon their cooking.^^ 

This humorous anecdote provides a 
glimpse into the popularity of mask 
performances among Baule peoples, some 
of which are designed for the pure pleasure 
("sweetness") and joy of entertainment. Yet, 
entertainment has a deeper meaning than pure 
distraction. Baule peoples derive an indescrib- 
able sense of satisfaction and pride from the 
collective endeavors that masquerades 
represent. Entertainment-mask performances 
provide psychological relief in times of social 
stress and impart a sense of securirv' and well- 
being to ;dl members of the communit)'.^'' 

Masquerades are not a static medium. Rather, 
diey are genres like opera and film noir, whose 
contents, scripts, and actors change over time 
and are continually reinvented to meet 
changing social circumstances. One masquer- 
ade called Gbagba, which has undergone 
considerable modification since the early 
rvventieth century, can be described as a 
microcosm of the human world, with a 
meaningful hierarchies system that alludes to 
the great dichotomies of Baule life: village and 
wilderness, women and men. The masks appear 
in a sequence that begins with human t)'pes, 
such as the foreign Fulani woman or the 
prostitute; animals, such as the baboon, 
antelope, and buffalo; and natural phenomena 

such as the moon or the rainbow, as is probably 
depicted by this mask. The role of these first 
masks is to "warm the dance space" and to 
prepare the arena for the next and more 
prestigious portrait masks. 

The form and the style of this mask suggest 
that it may be the work of an artist who 
sculpted masks in the courtyard of the National 
Museum of Ivory Coast in the 1940s and 
1 950s. ^ It is not clear whether he was of Yaure 
or Baule origin, and his name is unknown. This 
artist produced a vast corpus of masks both for 
local and foreign consumption, and he also had 
followers who copied his style. The artist's hand 
is especially recognizable in the rendering of the 
eyebrows and the nose. The mask reflects an 
overall attempt to achieve beauty and 
skillfiilness of form — the ultimate goals of 
Baule aesthetic philosophy. 

Benveen dances, masks are kept out of sight, 
not only to protect them from public view and 
insect damage but also to increase the aesthetic 
impact of the mask when it does appear. As one 
Baule person said, "You have to keep it hidden 
someplace a long time so that the day you take 
it out, people think it is beautiful. The less you 
dance it, the more people appreciate it. If you 
see it every day, you will not think it is beautiful 
anymore" (Kami, 1996).'" 

A horned mask performing for a Gbagba-type dance 
in Kongonou village, Aitii area. Ivory Coast. Photo: 
Susan M. Vogel. 1978. 


aces or nonor 
and Prestige 



Baule Peoples, Ivory Coast 
Early 20''' century 
Cast and tooled gold; H. 1 'Vi6 in. 
(5 cm), W. 1 Y, in. (4.5 cm) 
Purchased with funds from the 
Libbey Endowment, Gift of 
Edward Drummond Libbey, 

Like a God 

Gold gives force. If it has no power, it is 
not real gold. That is why all important 
things include gold.... When iin impor- 
tant person dies, gold honors the 
deceased; these honors are only for 

important people Gold brings 

strength, but it is also given to [produce] 
calm. ... Gold calms evil spirits. 

(Kami, 1993)'' 

While one might think of gold 
ornaments as a symbol of wealth in 
the material sense, Baule people ascribe a far 
more sacred value to this precious metal. For 
them, gold is "like a god " and is treated as an 
heirloom that evokes the presence of the 
ancestors. Baule families keep gold in ancestral 
treasuries called aja, which contain assorted 
prestige articles, including solid cast gold 
ornaments; carved wooden objects with gold 
foil, such as fly whisks and swords; as well as 
gold nuggets and gold dust wrapped in textiles 
or guarded in packets, bundles, and suitcases. 
As a unit, the aja represents the "force of the 
ancestors" and serves as the "soiJ" of the family.''" 

A finely cast gold pendant in the form of a 
man's face would once have belonged to such a 
treasury. It is a work of remarkable precision 
and delicacy, with a finely delineated beard and 
exquisitely rendered hair and eyebrows. The 
raised designs between the eyes and in front of 
the ears are cosmetic marks of Baule identity, 
and the entire piece conveys a love for gold that 
transcends its materiality. Here, aftection for 
the medium is manifest in the intricate 
detailing of form and the graceftil simplifica- 
tion of facial features. The intimate size and 
dimensions of the pendant gives it the personal 
aura of a locket or an antique pocket watch. 

The contents of an aja treasury are treated with 
extraordinary reverence, for they are considered 
to be protected by supernatural sanctions. They 
must never be altered or reconstituted by 
succeeding generations. Anyone who steals, 
removes, trades, or recombines objects in the 
treasury is subject to the ancestors' wrath. It is 
conceivable that the casting flaw under this 
man's nose might be the reason why the 
pendant's owner or artist was willing to 
relinquish it. 

Only a few occasions sanction the public 
display of gold. Important fijnerals call for a 
show of the wealth from different related 
families. Worked gold ornaments are laid out 
around the body of the deceased in order to 
"give honor to your family, and to express 
condolences. " After the funeral, the objects are 
returned to their owners. A second context for 
the display of gold is a ceremony to mark the 
end of mourning, when a widow is elegantly 
bedecked in fine cloth and gold ornaments 
before returning them to their sacred treasury.'^' 

A Baule chief and his retinue in fiill regalia, including 
goU-covered fly whisks, lanterns, knives, swords, and 
pendants, in Colikro village, Ailu area. Ivory Coast. 
Photo: Susan M. Vogel, 1982, 


Vessel: Kuduo 

Asante Group, Akan Peoples, Ghana 

18* to 19* century 

Cast and raised copper alloy; 

H. 8 Vs in. (21.9 cm), W. 6 Vain. 

(16.8 cm) 

Purchased with funds from the 

Libbey Endowment, Gift of 

Edward Drummond Libbey, 


Soul's Basin 

A hungry leopard tries to eat any animal. 

The rain wets the spots on the leopard's 
skin but does not wash them off. 

(Akan proverbs)''" 

Cast by the lost-wax method, this kuAiio 
represents centuries of culrural and religious 
interaaion and synthesis in the region that is now 
Ghana. Kuduo vessels, which were used in a wide 
variet)' ot rimal contexts by Akan peoples until the 
early twentieth century, have antecedents in 
Islamic basins that were imported into the region 
in the founeenth and fifteenth centuries from 
Eg\pt ;ind the Near East. It is likely that Dyi-ila 
(Islamized Mande peoples) traders purchased or 
traded such vessels at trade cides in the western 
Sudan, such as Djenne and Timbuktu, and 
brought them back to Ghana where they were 
assimilated ;ind reproduced over the centuries.''' 
Kuduo were made until the late nineteenth 
century, when the changes associated with 
colonialism proved so overwhelming that many 
older traditions were abandoned. Production of 
kuduo recommenced in the 1920s and 1930s_ 
when artists began to cast them for Europeans. 

This excellent precolonial example is a "casket 
kuduo" that could be locked and was made for 
storing precious items, such as gold dust, gold 
weights, beads, ;ind pendants. Since both gold 
weights and kuduo are associated with a persons 
soul, they were buried together with the deceased. 
Kuduo served many other fiincuons, such as the 
presentation of offerings to the spirits of deceased 
ancestors and deities, in the rites to ensure a 

newbom's good health, for girls' puberty rites, and 
during royal purification rites, in which the king and 
his subvchiefs used the receptacle for sacred water.^ 

Two salient teamres of this kuduo are its beaudfijlly 
inscribed surface and the animal imagery on its lid. 
The geometric, seemingly decorative motifi 
arranged in horizontal bands around the surface of 
the vessel derive from the earliest documented 
Islamic basins, which were covered with Arabic 
script or in some cases with arabesque. In this case, 
the artist may have been unfamiliar with Arabic 
language, but he faithfiilly imitated the pervasive 
inscriptions through intricate designs and patterns, 
such as scallops, lotus forms, and waving lines that 
give the effea of writing. 

Complementing these Islamic influences, a 
characteristically Akan motif surmounts the 
kuduo's lid — the image of two animals in mortal 
combat. A leopard attacks a horned quadruped 
that is probably an antelope. Such scenes in Akan 
visual arts almost always refer to verbal proverbs 
that Akan peoples value highly and which usually 
have a moral message. Here, it is probable that the 
rapaciousness of the leopard, which kills for pure 
pleasure, is a positive political statement about 
ruthless power and may be a metaphor for Akan 
incursions into the Ghanaian north.''"" 



Palm Wine Cup 

Kuba Peoples, Democratic 
Republic of Congo 
Early 20''' century 
Wood; H. 6 'V32 in. (16.4 cm) 
Purchased with Rinds from the 
Florence Scott Libbey Bequest in 
Memory of her Father, Maurice 
A.S — 

Vessel of Wisdom 

Sweet youtli lacks wisdom, wise old age 
lacks sweetness of character. 

(Kuba proverb)'''' 

Palm wine is so central to Kuba life as a 
social, ritual, and ceremonial beverage that 
if provides apt metaphors for human behavior 
and development. P;ilm wine is collected early in 
the day, at which time it has a sweet and mild 
flavor. Over the course of the day it ferments, 
becoming stronger and more pungent, as well as 
more intoxicating. In this ;ind other regions of 
central Africa, palm wine plays an important role 
in social life, as a focal point arotrnd which 
discussions, conversations, and palavers take place. 

In the precolonial period, Kuba tideholders and 
other high-ranking officials drank palm wine 
from sculpted wooden cups in the brm ot 
human heads or firll human bodies. The cups 
also serv'ed as display pieces. The faces are not 
intended as ponraits of specific individuals, 
although they convey important information 
about identity'. The hairline shown on this head 
is quintessentially Kuba. It is a style that was 
worn by men and women in the nineteenth and 
early rwentieth centuries by shaving a straight 
hairline with a curved or chiseled angle at the 
temples. The marks in front ot each ear are 
scarification patterns, serving both as proteaive 
devices and as marks of Kuba social identit)'.'' 

Kuba peoples are known tor their elaborate and 
sometimes sumptuous manufacture ol e\en 
mundane articles, such as cosmetic boxes and 

trumpets, pipes and drums. The idea of 
sculpting a drinking vessel as a human head is 
not only a reflection of the wealth and status of 
the owner but also had ritual overtones. Among 
neighboring Luba peoples to the east, the 
transmission of power to a new king required 
consumption of human blood mixed with palm 
wine from the dried cranium of his predecessor. 
The head was considered to be the locus of 
power and wisdom, and blood was the sacrificial 
agent that rendered a king semi-divine. 
Eventually, Luba sculpted heads replaced actual 
crania, which leads one to wonder if Kuba cups 
might have had a parallel development. In any 
event, such cups would never have been used in 
public by the highest ranking members in the 
Kuba hierarchy, who were required to drink and 
eat in total privacy, away from public xievv.' '" 

The simplicit)' of the cups lines and the elegance 
of its form are accentuated by the richness of its 
deep red tone — the result of applications oi tooL 
a red powder made from ground camwood and 
palm oil that Kuba people also apply to their 
own skin. Certain elements make this cup 
distinctive, such as the way the neckband 
becomes the handle as one turns the cup around 
and the rendering of ears as simple concentric 
circles, a s)'mbol that ma\' relate to genealog)' 
and ancestr)'. 

A titled Kuba official drinking from a carved wooden cup. 
Photo: Joseph Comet. 1974, courtesy of Monni Adams. 


Horse and Rider 

Yoruba Peoples, Republic of Benin 
Early 20''' cenmry 
Wood; H. 17 'A in. (45.1 cm), 
LI 5 '/sin. (38.4 cm) 
Purchased widi funds from die 
Libbey Endowment, Gift of 
Edward Drummond Libbey, 

One Who Rides Fire 

They say that fire kills water. 

He rides fire like a horse. 

Lightning — with what kind of cloth 
do you cover your body? 

With the cloth of death. 

(Yoruba poem)^''' 

The mounted leader is one of the most 
prevalent themes in African art, both for 
historical and symbolic reasons." In Yoruba 
sculpnire, im;iges of riders support Ifa divination 
bowls, appear among the hierarchical compositions 
of house posts, surmount Epa helmet masks, and 
adorn shrines. In a general sense, the equestrian is a 
symbol of power, for to ride a horse implies both 
wealth and elevated status. In a more specifically 
historical sense, the equestrian refers to the 
important roles of cavalries in Oyo kings' 
campaigns from the sixteenth to eighteenth 
centuries. In the late eighteenth and nineteenth 
centuries, only Yoruba chiefs and their retainers 
were privileged to own and ride horses, but the 
theme has remained in Yoruba art as a rich 
metaphor for ideas about status, control, and 
access to supernatural powers. 

Some Yoruba gods are represented through riding 
metaphors, such as Shango, the God of Thunder 
and Lighming, who is called "he who rides fire like 
a horse." A Yoruba myth features the horse as a 
source of competition and conflict. It recounts that 
Obatala, the god who creates all human bodies, was 
returning from a long journey and saw a great 
white stallion, which he decided to ride the 
remaining distance to the capital. TTie horse 
belonged to Shango, who, when he heard that 
someone had ridden it, ordered Obatala to be 
imprisoned, even though the elderly gods had sent 

their apxjlogies to the king. As the days and months 
passed, the rains failed and drought spread through 
the land. The earth became parched and women 
ceased to give birth. Only when pleas from his 
chiefs convinced Shango to release the creator God, 
did the rains return so life could be resuscitated. 
Such stories articulate a deeply felt ambivalence 
about power, both political and psychological.^' 

TTie God Ogun, God of Iron and Warfare, is also 
implicit to equestrian images associated with 
warfare. Ogun as a symbol of political and social 
mobility, represents both the change and 
transformation effeaed by conquest and batde, as 
well as the mobility of the gods. When a god comes 
to mount the head of an adept through spirit 
possession {gun), the adept is literally and 
figuratively said "to be ridden" (elegun):'^ 
Worshippers are known as "gods' mounts" or 
"horses of the gods.""' 

This horse and rider is unusual for its active 
composition. Most fZ? «'« equestrians are shown in 
a stationary or supportive mode. The animation 
of this sciilpture may reflea Fon influence, a 
group that blends with Yoruba culture in the 
Republic of Benin. ^ It is likely that this figure was 
once used to enrich a shrine dedicated to the 
protection of warriors. The top of the rider's head 
looks as though it may have supported a bowl for 
ofl^erings to the gods. 

The Yoruba say that "proverbs are 
the horses of speech" {owe, I'esin oro). 
In other words, proverbs are succinct 
verbal evocations and embellish- 
ments of conversation that support, 
carry, and elevate speech and 
intensify the expressiveness of ideas. 
Proverbs are verbal art, not simply 
verbal communication. Thus we 
may understand Yoruba arts as 
embellishments that uplift and 
move their viewers by the beauty 
and power of their expressiveness/^ 


Seat of Embrace 

Interacting, man and symbol achieve a 
higher existence than either could reach 

alone. Together they can transform 

ordinary time and ordinary space into an 

extraordinary event. '' 

Throughout Africa, sculpted stools are 
not only thrones for sitting but also 
metaphorical seats of sacred authority' and 
royal power. In Tanzania and eastern Congo, 
a "high-backed stool" was the emblem of 
choice for a number oi chieftaincies, including 
Tibwa, Nyamwezi, Luguru, and Hehe peoples, 
in the late nineteenth and early twentieth 
centuries. Stools in this particular cross-cultural 
tradition difter from those of other parts of 
Africa in that they have a high back, similar to a 
chair with no arms."^ 

Even more striking, however, is that the back is 
often carved with the characteristics ot a 
woman, with breasts protruding from the plank 
against which one would have leaned one's 
back. The implication of the design is that the 
chair is a seat of "embrace," in which a chief 
becomes fiised with a symbol ot his maternal 
line of descent. In fact, Nyamwezi peoples refer 
to their mothers' male kin as "the back, " in 
reference to the way that small children are 
carried on their mothers' backs. * 

There is some speculation as to whether people 
ever sat on such stools. A hole in the center ot 
the seat of many related examples, and a hollow 
cylindrical tube below that hole under the seat, 
leads one to suspect that a pole or some other 

implement was used to raise the seat for 
carrying in processions. ' 

The Toledo stool reflects a blending of peoples 
in this region, for while the head and the base 
of the stool both appear to be Luguru in style, 
its facial features share similarities with 
Nyamwesi peoples. The elegant designs on the 
back are similar to coastal Swahili artists' use of 
chip-carved design motifs on commemorative 
posts and doors.*" 

Yet the actual design produced by the chip- 
carving technique on this stool is identical to a 
highly symbolic motif of isosceles triangles 
found on Tabwa high-backed stools and other 
chieftainly emblems and is called balamwezh 
"the rising of a new moon." For Tabwa peoples, 
who reside in eastern Congo along the shores of 
Lake Tanganyika, the moon is a symbol of 
hope, rejuvenation, and rebirth, and such stools 
are made to reinforce and consolidate power 
and to symbolize the chief's elevated status.**' 
But the high-backed stool also serves to give 
concrete form to the notion of ancestral 
support, for by sitting upon one's ancestor, one 
is literally upheld by the deeds of one's forebears 
and reminded of one's responsibility to 
maintain social health and prosperity."" 


Woman's Skirt 

Shoowa Group, Kuba Peoples, 

Democratic Republic of Congo 

Mid 20''' century 

Raffia cloth with appliqud designs; 

H. 34 'A ia (87.0 cm), I.. 129 V, in. 

(329.57 cm) 

Purchased with fiinds from the 

Libbcy Endowment, Gift of 

Edward Drummond Libbey, 



Woman's Skirt 

It was a magnificent spectacle; there were more than 
a luiiidred of them in full costume. One saw only 
baldrics and collars, covered with beads and shells, 

veloiired and embroidered cloths, ornaments oi 

metal glitcering in the sun, headdresses, surmoiuited 

with bundles of multicolored leathers.... 

(Jan Vansinas description of the Bushoong king's 
entourage in the 1950s)*" 

This description of the king's attendants at 
the Bushoong palace entrance conveys the 
majesrv' and wealth of the Kuba kingdom, the 
royal insignia, and especially the garments and 
accoutrements ot the court. IVrhaps the most 
singular trademark of Kuba artistic output in 
the List centur)' is textiles made from raffia 
palm fiber, embroidered and appliqued with 
complex geometric patterns. These textiles are 
not only beautiful in and ot themselves but also 
in the elegant and sensational ways they are 
worn in wrapped layers and in combination 
with other garments. 

Although this skirt was probably worn by a royal 
woman, .such as the king's wife, daughter, or 
niece, Kuba textiles have Rinctions and uses that 
go far beyond our own senses of clothing. These 
fabrics were considered to be a form of wealth 
and were u.sed as tribute, bride wealth, debt 
payment, and compen.sation in legal settlements. 
They al,so had intellectual and social significance 
beyond their strictly monetary value.*^ 

Kuba textiles reflea a division of labor between 
the sexes. Young men prepare the palm fronds, 
which involves stripping the fibrous leaves and 
slitting them with a special comb, while women 
prepare the fibers for embroider)', smoothing 

them with snail shells. Only men set up the 
loom and perform the weaving, but women 
color the cloth with dyes and do all the 
embroidery and/or applique."" Applique, of 
which this textile is an example, is the result ot 
using black embroidery to stitch cloth fragments 
in different color tones onto a background cloth. 

rile patterns on Kuba textiles appear to be 
purel\- geometric, abstract motifs, but they are 
in fact repre.sentational and have specific names 
such as "tortoise shell, " "interlace," and 
"feather," whose meanings are known only to 
the women who sew them.'"' These cloths were 
sometimes worn by men when they imperson- 
ated women in masquerade performances, 
underscoring the gender theater implicit in 
Kuba textile manufacture and use, for men 
danced wearing women's garments whose 
motifs they did not know or understand. 

I he design sense that characterizes Kuba 
textiles has been compared to the s)-ncopated 
rhnhms of jazz and can be described as the 
"silent beat" in African design. It is an aesthetic 
whereby the expected is interrupted and the 
symmetrical oflset by an irregular staggering or 
suspension of the pattern that enlivens the 
visual eflect of the object." 

Ro\iit Bushoong womcti in rrrrmoni/t/ itrtirr. Two uvnirn art 
the current and jormer kings' wives, while one is a king's niece. 
They are dressed for a royal women's festival, with layers of 
appliqued and embroidered skirts and wraps that create a 
rhythmic interplay of designs and patterns. Photo: Monni 
Adams. 1976. 


Chapter 4 

Faces of 
Spirit and Soul 

9h jtf 1* mI^K^I 






■t^~ ■ "^"^^^B 


Hornbill Mask 

Northern Dan Peoples, Liberia 
Mid 19''' to early 20''' century 
Wood; H. 21 in. (53.3 cm) 
Purchased with funds from the 
Libbey Endowment, Gift of 
Edward Drummond Libbey, 

Spirits Born in Dreams 

There was a biixl svaiidciiiij; around with 

a lioriibill. He spoke: "Where you, 

Honibill, are going, there is no path. 

There is no water, no wood, no stones to 

sit." The hornbill, howe\er, did not obey. 

(Dan legend)^^ 

Dan masquerades provide tangible- 
glimpses oi mnholog)' and give 
perceptible forms to spiritual presences. Mask 
spirits tiinction in myriad ways .is instmctors, 
judges, debt collectors, agents oi social control, 
and entertainers. They articulate male/female 
dynamics and the intersection of nature and 
culture. This m.isk, with its somber features and 
elongated bird-like be.ik projecting from beneath 
the nose, is a m;ile mask that represents Hornbill, 
the culture bearer of humanity. It is said that 
when Hornbills mother died, the corpse was 
buried "on the peak of the next generation."'*'' 

Among Dan peoples, the world is divided into 
two fundamentally opposed yet interdependent 
categories — the village, which is the realm of 
women, domestic animals, and human-made 
objects; and the bush, ciomain of men. wild 
animals, raw materials, and spirits. Crossing the 
borders between these spheres is dangerous, for 
they are inhabited by bodiless ^/<, invisible 
spirits that have definite personalities and 
characteristics. Sometimes du seeking to occupy 
a material form will visit a person during their 
sleep. The spirit ofTers favors of power, wealth, 
or prestige in exchange for a material manifesta- 
tion. The spirit dictates to the person through a 
dream whether it wishes to appear as a static 
power object or as a mobile pr&sence to be 
performed and incarnated by a masked dancer."" 

Masks are not considered to be representations 
of spirits but rather are the spirits themselves. 
And though each one has its own personality, 
masks can change identin' and hold several 
careers within a lifetime. Ihere is a Dan saying, 
"Masks have mixed characters like human 
beings. "" A mask that began in the initiation 
camp or was created for war or for entertain- 
ment may be promoted to the position of spirit 
mask of a village section, for which it must 
perform new roles of judge and peacemaker. 

This particidar type of mask evokes the forest 
where the hornbill bird lives, and its dance is 
beautiful and birdlike. The mask is worn with a 
large fiber skirt, and the coiffure is decorated 
with mirror glass, cowries, cloth, fur, and white 
feathers, all adding to the birdlike appearance 
of the masker. The dancer sometimes carries 
horsetail fly whisks, which he holds with arms 
outstretched. The accompanying field 
photograph shows how the dancer bends 
forward and bobs his head to give the 
impression of a large bird flying. The dance is 
performed to the accompaniment of large 
drum orchestras for festive occasions.''' 

LXjn ttiuiki iiLii:<- ihiblf thf iniittbU jorces 
oj ihe iiiiivmr. The honibill mask is dnimaiic 
iitttl theiUriaiL a triitisponing prfsffwe that 
rrmitiHs the aut/inifr ofniythji-al episodes that 
have social and spiritual significance. 
Photo: Lorenz Homber^er, 7993. 


Headdress: Kponyungo 

Scniifo Peoples, Bagor River 
Valley region, Ivory Coast 
Mid 19''' to early 20'"' century 
Wood; H. 1 1 '/, in. (28.6 cm), 
L. 34 in. (86..3 cm) 
Purchased with funds from the 
Libbey Hndowment, (lift of 
Edward Drummond Libbey, 


Jaws Open in Spiritual Combat 

Sweat and laughter, the taste ol yams in a .succulent 

meat sauce, the fierce pride of status, the Fear of" evil 

spirits, the tears of personal loss, and the reuniting of 

hiends are as niuch a part of the Senuto funeral as is the 

joy of aesthetic experience." 

Nicknamed "Open Jaws," this mask with 
its dcN'ouring nuiz/Jc and diij^gcrlikc horns 
was made by the ScruiK) wiHKJcancrs' guild, 
Kuk'lc, to pcrsuniK' a dangerous presence 
associated with the wilderness and sorcer)-. ITie 
mask is a visible m;inifestation of wild beasts and 
strong medicines. With its composite animal 
shape references — h\ena, wild boar, chameleon , 
hornbill, .md ram — this m.isk might be descrilxxi 
•IS a "battleship" ot defensive weapons. During 
hmeral .ind mortuary rites, the mask wages 
spiritual combat .ig;iinst witches, ,sorccr\-, death, 
and kx-lings of fear, env)-, or iealous}- that may be 
present at the time of death. This is espcci.illy 
imfX)rt;int when it is thought that the decexscd 
might have been a viaim of foul play or when 
competing fictions of the Poro initiation 
as.stK"iation are in attendance.'^ 

rhe m;isk's official name Ls Kponyungp, which 
meaas "had." It is also referred to .ls "big," in 
metaphoricJ reference to the powers of the 
masks. Among the .mim.ils pmminenti)- dejiiaal 
on this headdavs Ls a chamekvn, consideaxi to be a 
mes-seng^r or "horse" for the biLsh .spirits to am- 
communicatioas between humans and gods. ITie 
ch;imelcon Ls thiLs a "mount" .ind, ,is one Scnufo 
pnnrrb puLs it, " ITie ch.tmekxin travels as fast as 
the dLst;ince from your nose to \T)ur mouth. ""^ The 
ch.imeleon Ls notorious fiir its slowness, but the 
rdi-rcncc to speed is due to Chameleon's supernatu- 
ral powrrs that arc faster than light. Chameleon is 

believed to be one of the first two being? to set foot 
on e.irth ;uid is therefore considered close tt) (kkI, 
cre-ation, and primordiiil secrets. 

Chameleon appears with Hornbill on this m;isk in 
reference to a much loved Scnufo stor)' about 
which animal was first to come to cnirth. Hornbill 
and Chameleon argue about who is older, and the 
two animals thus e\oke idcus oftlie importance of 
age and maturity to understanding knowledge 
and magiciil powers. The large horns are antelope, 
to remind viewers that this mask's owners were 
farmers. Homs are also used as receptacles for 
[X)werRil mtxJicinal substances. line jaws are those 
of a vicioiLs h\'ena. 1 he sm.iller protrusions from 
the jaws are boar's tusks; the second set emerging 
from the top of the muzzle is an extra p.-iir for 
ani[ilified [lower when the m.isk goes fonh to 
battle on behalf of Poro .ivstKiation memhers to 
whom the m.isk belonged."' 

When this type of mask performs, it fierce 
manifestations. It can emit fire or somerimes a 
.swarm of bees that envelops the spectators' heads 
before returning to the m.isks jaws. The uniLsual 
tongue emerging from one side of the mouth may 
re-fer to sorcere-rs who are never straight but always 
off<enter. " Death is a rime of intense emotional 
aitharsis, .ind this mask pmvided protection 
during hinerals when it countercxl malevolent 
forces .ind a micrcKosmic embodiment of 
many contesting powers. 

Two Kponyufigo niiisks stirmountefi hy t-hitmrUoni iit j 
Sf'tujo Junrriil. The maskrn we,ir liratmtitc costumes and 
fierfonn iimidst Poro assocuuion imttates in a swirl o) dry 
seiiion dust. Central Sfiuiri farmm. Kufitru group. Photo: 
Anita GLize. 1970. 


Power Figure: Nkishi 
Songye Peoples, Democratic 
Republic of Congo 
Mid 19''' to early 20''' century 
Wocxl, metal, beads, woven grass, 
antelope horn; H. 41 in. (104.2 cm) 
Purchased with funds from the 
Libbey Endowment, Gift of 
Edward Drummond Libbey, 

A Hiding Place for the Soul 

Nkishi is the name oi things wc use to help a man 

when he is sick and from which we obtain heahh. 

Nkishi protects peopk's souls and t;uards against 

illness. I luis nkishi is soniethint; that lumts down 

illness and chases it away trom the body. In nkishi 

also is the .safe upbringing ot children. It is a 

hiding place for people's souls, to keep and 

compose in order to pre.ser\'e life. Everv'body is 

ver)' gratehil to Diinhiilii [plural] for helping them. 


A looming presence, this figure 
once scr\'cd an entire communirs' in times 
ot need tor protection, healing, and therapy. 
Although sculpted by a wood carver, the actual 
"artist" ot the work was an ng/inga, or ritual 
specialist, who empowered the object through 
the .iddition ot magical substances (bishimbd) 
inside cavities in the head and abdomen. 
Nkishi figures were of essentially two types, 
those intended to counteract malevolent forces 
and those destined to attract positive cfk-cts;'" 
it is no longer possible to say which purpose 
was served by this figure. Such figures were 
valued by Songye peoples not primarily on the 
basis of ourvvard form and sculptural qualit)- 
but rather on the efiectiveness o\ their aid. In 
other words, Songv'e aesthetic judgments rest 
not only on how an object looks but on its 
capacity to "work."'"" 

The bishimba cannot be seen, tor they are 
inside the horn surmounting the head and, 
probably, in the abdomen behind the metal 
stud that seals the p;is.sageway of the navel. This 
stud serves to seal in powers that are ultimately 
to be released for mystical purposes. Other 
elements are added to augment the visual 
impact of the nkishi, such .is beads and a raffia 
skirt that would have been the apparel o\ a 
chief, rhe copper strips on the forehead and 

at the temples are references to lightning,"" 
while the bushbuck antelope horn is a com- 
mon receptacle in central Africa for holding 
medicines, and also signals the aggression 
encompassed by this highly charged figure. '"' 
Such figures were considered to be so powerful 
that they were handled b\- long sticks and never 
with the bare hands. 

The figure is a monument to geometric thrust. 
It speaks to its viewer as if to menace, threaten, 
or intimidate. And yet, it also demands to be 
looked at; it has an exacting presence through 
the power of its volumetric form. The figure 
leans forward at an angle as if to approach its 
beholder, and with bared teeth and hands 
akimbo, almost seems to be in motion. Indeed, 
among neighboring Luba peoples, a horn in 
the top of such a figure gives the object the 
power of locomotion.'"' 

Nkishi figures and related povvet objects are 
used throughout the Bantu-speaking region, 
among Kongo, Kuba, and Luba, as well as by 
peoples of African descent in the Americas. 
The concept of nkishi also inspires the art of 
contcmporar)' artists such as Renee Stout, 
who makes nkishis as a form of healing and 
personal transformation."" 



Headdress: Mukenga 

Kuba Peoples, Democratic 
Republic of Congo 
Early 20''' century 
Raffia, wood, beads, shells, leopard 
skin, palm fibers; H. 21 V4 in 
(55.3 cm), W 13 '/sin. (33.3 cm) 
Pundhased with funds finm the 
Libbey Endowment, Gift of 
Edwaid Drummond Libbey, 

King of the Elephants 

An animal, c\cn 

surpass the elephant. 

A man, even if he has authorit)', does not 
surpass the king. 

(Kuba proverb)'"' 

Facing death is the theme oi Kuba 
niiisqueradcs scagcd for deceased members 
ot the men's initiation societ)' .imong the 
BiLshixing, Shcxnva, and\' other groups in 
the northern h.iif ot the Kuba kingdom. ^Tiile 
all funerals are important, those of chieft, 
titleholdets, and other members of aristocratic dans 
iire criticil events to .societ)' .is a whole. TTie)- are 
occasions for mouming .ind celebration, as well is 
contexts for lavish displav-s of insignia, dress, and 
accouterments that reflect histories of trade, 
economic h^emony, and political domination. 

During the nineteenth centurv-, Kuba rulers 
gained control of elephant herds ,ind traded ivor)' 
through long-distance networks. This activitv' 
brought great wealth and established the Kuba as 
a regional power. As a result of the political 
con.solidation and enormous monetan' gains of 
this period, eleph.ints and ivorv' came to be 
associated with paramount rulers (/tyim) and their 
titleholders. The Mukenga headdress is a 
rem.irkable rendering of mlership in the form of 
an elephant. During the miisquer.ide perfor- 
mance, the dancer wearing the Mukenga mask 
personifies an important udeholder dancing to 
honor the deceased."^' 

The high projeaing "trunk" of this headdress is 
the most obvious reference to the mightiest of 

beasts, and many Mukenga masks also have 
decorated nisks. But the animal imagen' is not 
restricted to the elephant. 1 he face is covered with 
the fur of a spotted cat, such ;ls a serval — a s)'mbol 
of titleholders in the service of the chief — and 
white cowrie shells. Cowries are among the most 
visible objeas of we.ilth displav'ed at Rinerals. 
Thev are placed on the ankles ,ind arms of the 
decftised and are included in the inventon' of 
buriiil goods.'" A spectacular white outfit covered 
with cowries is the most important garment 
owned bv' a king and is worn onl\' on the days of 
his investiture and his funeral. White cowries 
indicate that a ruler or other officeholder is 
descended from Woot, the founding ancestor of 
Kuba culmre who came from the sea.""* 

The Mukenga headdress not only dances at 
hinerals but also forms pan of the fianeran- dress 
of deceased titleholders. Among neighboring 
Ndengese peoples, following the death of a senior 
titleholder, an effigv- of the deceased is crowned 
v\ith the Mukenga niiisk. His successor is made to 
spend a period of time facing the effigv' to transfer 
power from the dead to the living."" Death is 
never an end in itself in Africa. It signals new 
b^innings, continuities, and strong and resilient 
responses on the part of communities that 
consolidate in times of stress to bring change and 
transformation of the most positive sort. 

Like Mukenga, this Mwash aMbaoy masqurraJr represents 
elite leadership. Whereas Mukenga has an elephant trunk 
projecting from the head to signify paramount ndership. 
Mwash aMbooy has a shock of eagle feathers on his head as a 
symbol of power and connection to the founding ancestor of the 
Kuba kingdom. Photo: A. Turconi. 19^4. courtesy of Joseph 
Cornet and Monni Adams. 


Mask; Ngontang 

Fang Peoples, Gabon 

Late 19''' century 

Wood, pigment; H. 17 in. (43.2 cm), 

Wll V>.(29.2cm) 

Purchased with Rinds from the 

Libbey Endowment, Gift of 

Edward Drummond Libbey, 


Another Other World 

Ngontang'is die mask of the "young 
white woman," a spirit who has returned 

from the land of the dead, the other 

world across the seas — in the country of 

the Europeans."" 

This mask is derived from a type called 
tigontang, formerly used by Fang peoples 
CO celebrate the visitation of spirits upon the 
living.'" This particular example, however, was 
probably never used by Fang peoples them- 
selves. In a somewhat ironic rwist of fate, this 
mask — which was probably made before 1900 
as part of a group for sale to foreigners — came 
into the possession of two early Modernist 
European artists, Maurice Vlaminck and Andre 
Derain, whose work was influenced by African 
sculpture in transforming and enduring ways. 

Derain's diar\' describes how he and Maminck 
were sining in a bar outside P;iris in 1 90S when a 
trader came in with two almost identical wood 
masks from what was then French Equatorial 
Afriai. The rvvo men were so impressed with the 
works of an that the\- purchased them. It is not 
cle;ir whether Derain bought one and Vkiminck 
the other, or whether Vlaminck bought both and 
later sold one to Derain. But it is certain chat 
M.iminck owned this mask before 1937, when it sold at an auccion of Vl;rminck's colleccion at 
the Hotel Drouot. The other mask is now in the 
Musee National d'An Modeme, Paris, and Derain 
is known to have made a bronze casting of it, 
which is in the Mu.sce des Arts Africains et 
Ocean iens, Paris." ' 

Throughouc Bancu-speaking regions of cencral 
Africa, whiceness is associated with death and 
otherworldiness and, more generally, with states 
of transition and transformation. The whiceness 
of chis mask n'pe represented the otherness of 
the spirit world for Fang peoples even before it 
came to be associated with Europeans. African 
masks, in turn, became a symbol of African 
otherness for European artists of the early 
rvvencieth century who found in African arc a 
new sensibilit)' and an inspiracional approach co 
perception and representation. 

While the influence of African art on early 
Modern an cannot be underestimated, it muse be 
remembered chac Afriain an was appreciated ;ind 
borrowed b)' e<irl\' Modernists only for its formal 
attributes, with little understanding of the 
principles underl)ing its ounvard appearance. In 
the deaides since Vlaminck, Derain, and Picasso, 
African an has come co hold a place of ics own in 
the histor)' of an, without ignoring the 
interconneaedness of different cultural aesthetics. 

Tim portrait oj Paul (jiiilLiume. a Parisian art dealer 
who sold African objects as well as the ivork of Max Jacob. 
Constant in Brancusi, and Amedeo Modigliani. is an example 
of African influence on early tiventieth century European 
painting. GuilLiume's face is shown as if it were a Fang 
mask, with sharply defined flat surfaces and eyes that 
resemble cut-out openings. Amedeo Modigliani (Italian. 
IH84-I920). Portrait of Paul Guillaumc. 1915. Oil on 
board. 29 7, X 20 7, in. (74.9 x 52 / cm). Gift of Mrs. C. 
lockhart McKehrt. 'l 95 1. 382. 


Reliquary Figure 

Kota Peoples, Gabon 
Late 1 9''' to early 20''' century 
Wood oovensd with brass, copper, 
and iron sheeting; H. 20 in. 
(50.8 cm), W 1 1 'A, in. (29.8 cm) 
Purchased with funds from the 
Libbey Endowment, Gift of 
Edward Drummond Libbey, 


Face of the Bvyiti 

lo tic And iK-conic, to live Ana die arc 
but r\v() hiccs of the same reality." ' 

Ihc hiccs ot lamrs figures and masks 

look backward and forward, from 

defective past to perfected future — just as 

Janus was the ancient Roman god of 

thresholds and passages.""* 

It is fitting that an object intended to 
memorialize tfie dead should be janiform, 
or double, with faces looking in both 
directions, to the past and the future, to the 
world of the living and that of the dead. 
Although no longer u.sed today, the purpose 
of such reliquar)' figures was to protect a basket 
or bark box containing the skulls, bones, and 
other relics of important deceased ancestors, 
such as former chiefs, lineage heads, artists, 
judges, and especially fecund women. The 
figure was lashed to the container through the 
lozenge base that doubled as an abbreviated 
body. The copper, while brilliant and valuable, 
also imparted an aura that may have been 
repellent to trespassers who might dare enter 
the sanctuary without authorization."'' 

Kota figures have many different appearances. 
I hey are usually singled-faced, with a smaller 
number of Janus sculptures.'"' The two faces 
on this reliquan.' guardian differ considerably. 
One side has a large protruding forehead, 
round eyes, and a linear design of horizontal strips on the cheeks that contrasts with 
the smoothly curving surface of the forehead. 
The other has a slightly concave surface with 
diagonal strips radiating in opposite directions 
on the cheeks and above the eyes. Perhaps the 
two faces were an added protection, to watch 

in both directions. More likely, however, the 
two faces simply displayed more wealth. The 
metal used to cover the wood core of Kota 
sculptures was taken from materials coming 
into F,quatorial Africa through European 
colonialism and trade, such as brass ingots, 
copper vessels, and wire that were beaten, 
flattened and stretched over the surface in an 
ostentatious show of wealth. Such figures were 
sometimes removed from their places atop the 
reliquaries to be used in public performances. 
The two faces undoubtedly augmented the 
sculptures theatrical effect." 

Kota peoples claim that the sculpture depicted 
the actual skulls inside the baskets. Both the 
skulls and the reliquar)' guardian figures were 
publicly displayed during funerals, before a 
communal hunt, or at the onset of an 
epidemic. The figures were offered sacrifices, 
and during initiation rites called bwiti, the 
novices' fathers danced with the "face of the 
bwiti," swinging it back and forth in their 
hands."'* The communin' reaped enormous 
stores of power and strength from the sight of 
the reliquary guardian. The object was a source 
not only of aesthetic delight but also of spiritual 
sustenance, for the reliquaries were thought to 
retain the powers of the deceased and to bring 
their positive influences to surviving kin. 


Slit Drum 

Mangbetu Peoples, Democratic 
Republic of Congo 
Late 19''' to early 20''' century 
Wood with cast met;il rings; 
H. 11 'A in. (29.2 cm), 
W. 26'/. in. (66.7 cm) 
Purchased with funds from the 
Libbey Endowment, Gift of 
Edward Drummond Libbey, 


Africa is Calling 

When the wind blows inn) its liollow 
bodv, it lows like a buftalo."'' 

A large bell-sha[X'd olijfct v\ith sleek 
contours and minimalist lines, this drum 
served as a mouthpiece for an entire communirv'. 
The "t.ilkint; ilriini" was pla\'etl to alen the 
cornnuinirv' to a testival or ceremony, to warn 
people away from a s;icred precinct, to call men 
to war, or to convey news of the king's death. 
Made from a dark, hard wckx.1, the daim is 
sometimes carved a dirterem thickness on each 
side to m.L\imi/,e the tuimbcr of variations 
that cin be produced. Ihrough combinations of 
high ;ind low tones in long and short sequences, 
the slit dmm can tninsmit complex verbal 
messages that iniitate the sounds of Linguage over 
distances of seveial kilometers. 

In .tddition to their use for communicition, such 
dnims served prim.irily .is a symbol of royal 
authority. King? .ind paramount chiefs gave them 
to les,ser chieti to invest them with power. At the 
court, a sm.ill dmm like this was often p;iired with 
a l.irger one in the form of a buffido or a crocodile. 
IXiring diinccs, the drum could be used to 
request drinks for musiciiins, call d;incers to the 
arena by n.ime, .ind give instructions to the 

Finally, the drum could announce the arrival of 
foteignets. As in many parts of Africa, explorers .ind 
scientific exptxlitions that cime to the .irea had a 
profound influence on Mangfxtu ailmn.- in the 
late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 

The encounters left a perin.inent imprint on the 
inhabitants, who began to produce works of art 
that reflected their intcraaions with and f)ercep>- 
tions of these lluro^x-.ui and Americin visitors. 

The interface berwtx-n cultures and continents is 
enduring and A.s James ("lifford has 
written, "cultures do not hold still for their 
portraits," and as the Mangbetu case demon- 
strates, both sides in a fiice-to-face encounter are 
.iffected and transtormcxl.' " When we face 
.mother [X-rson, we face ourselves, and in that 
im.ige we mav perceive a familiar reflection. As 
Roliind Barthes said of Greta Garbos iconic lace, 
"the face ... is an idea."'"' And as Susan Stewart 
writes, "the face reveals a depth and profiindirv- — 
It is a rv-pe of 'deep' text, a text whose meaning is 
complicated b\' change and by a constant series of 
.iltemations between a reader and an author who 
is strangely disembodied.... but, [who is] in fact 
creaU'dhy this re-ading. '' ■ 

The slit drum is a reminder that African an is 
not silent; it is full of voices waiting to be heard. 
Afriain an, culture, and histor}' are an on-going, 
li\ing legacy that has a great deal to teach and to 
tell. The works in the Toledo Museum collection 
summon viewers to share in the brilliance and 
poetry of African artistic heritage. To face these 
works is to "walk with the elders," for these 
are objects that will "open doors on earth and 
in heaven." 

TiltehoUrn oj the Luba kingdom, another central 
African polity, playing a slit drum on the occiision 
of a royal celebration. The slit drum summons people 
to participation in an uplifting communal endeatvr. 
Photo: Mary Nooter Roberts. I 'JH'J. 



1 Quoted in Henn'John Drewal and John Mason, 
Bfiidi. Body, and Soul: An and U^H in the Yoniba 

1 'niime. exhihition GU;ilogiic (Ixw Angeles: UCLA 
Fowler Maseuni ot'C Histon', 1998) 81. 

2 Miin- Nooter Rolx-ns ,uid Allen H Roberts, 
AUtnory: Liiha An and the hlakhtg of History, 
exhibirion catalogue (New York and Munich: 
The Museum for Afriaui An and Prestel, 1 996). 

3 Henn- John, John Pemlierton 111, and 
Rowland ,Abi(Klun, Yoniba: Nine Centtoies of 
African An and Thougfn, exhibition catalogue 
(New York ITie Center tor African An in 
assodarion with Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1989) 26. 

4 Ibid., 26, and Roben Farris Thompson, Face of 
tt>e Gods: An audAlttm ofAfiica and the African 
Americas (New \'ork .uid Munich: The Museum 
for Africm An .uul Prestel, 1993). 

5 Babatunde Lj\sal, "Be)'ond Ph\'siognom\': 
The Signifying Face in \'oruba An and Fhought" 

6 John Pembenon 111, "ITie Car^'ers of the 
Northeast," in Dressal, Pembenon, and Abiodun 
1989 (above n. 3) 202. 

7 After Alisa LaGamma, labels for the exhibition 
"Master Hand: Indi\idiui]it)- ,uid Creati\itv' among 
Yoruba Sculptors," The Metmpolitan Museum of An, 
NewYori< (September 1 1, 1997-Maich 1, 1998). 

8 Pembenon 1989 (above n. 6) 197. 

9 John Pembenon III and William Fa^, ed. Brycc 
Holcombe, Yond?a: Sculpture ofWest Africa (New 
York: Alfred A. Knopf 1982) 162, 80. 

10 Babatunde Lawal, personal communication, 1 998. 

1 1 Pembenon 1982 (alx)ve n. 9) 198. 

12 Quoted in Babamnde Law;il, 7 he Gel}d^ 
Spectacle: An, Gauier, and Social Hannony in an 
African Cultiiiv (Seatde: Universit)' ol Washington 
Preis, 1996)98. 

13 Yoruba verse, quoted in John Mason, "Old, 
New World Religion," in Faces: Fhe Magazine 
About People (issue on "The Yoruba People: Nigeria 
and Be\'ond") (Peterborough, N.H.: Cobblestone, 
1995) 19. 

14 Doran H. Ross, personal communication, 1998. 

1 5 Doran H. Ross, "Akua's Child and Other 
Relatives: New Mythologies for Old Dolls," in Isn't 
S/HeA Doll: Play and Ritual in African Sadpture, 
exhibition catalogue, ed. Elisabeth L. Cameron 
(Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural 
Histor)', 1996)43-57. 

16 Ibid., 43. 

1 7 Colleaed and translated by Lawal 1 996 (above 
n. 12) 129. 

18 Pembenon 1982 (above n. 9) 138. 

19 Idowu, 1962; cited in Lawal 1996 (above n. 12) 


20 Lawal 1996 (above n. 12) 253; Lawal 

21 Lawal 1996 (above n. 12) 121. 

22 Hcnni'John Drewal, "Gelede Masquerade: 
Imagery and Motif" AfiicanArtslA (1974) 8-19, 

23 Quoted in Joseph Nevadomsky, "The Benin 
Bronze Horseman as the Ata of Idah," African Arts 
19.4 (1986) 40-47, and Barbara Blackmun, "Who 
Commissioned the Queen Mother Tasks? A 
Problem in theChronology of Benin Ivories," 
AfruanAnslA2{V)9\) 54-65, 90. 

24 Blackmun 1991 (above n. 23) 59-60. 

25 Henry John Drewal and Margaret Drewal, 
"Projections from the Top in Yoruba Art," Afrcan 
AnsWA (1977)43-49. 

26 Nevadomsky 1986 (above n. 23) 44. 

27 Quoted in Rowland Abiodun, Henrv' John 
Drewal, and John Pembenon 111, Yoniba: An and 
Aesthetics, ed. Lorenz Homberger (New York and 
Zurich: The Center for African An ajid die 
Rietberg Museum, 1991) 13. 

28 Babatunde Lawal, personal communication, 1 998. 

29 Rowland Abiodtui, "The Kingdom of Owo," 
in Drewal, Pemberton, and Abiodun 1989 (above 
n. 3) 93-96. 

30 An early field photograph shows seven or eight 
very similar ivory figures belonging to the Benin 
Oromila priest, half of which are in pure Benin 
style, while the other half are — like this one — in 
the more imaginative style of Owo. William Fa^, 
personal communication to The Toledo Museum 
of An, August 24, 1 976. 

3 1 Babatunde Lawal, personal communication, 1 998. 

32 Abiodun 1 989 (above n. 29) 1 1 1 . 

33 Quoted in Frederick Lamp, "Frogs into Princes: 
TTie Temne Rabai Initiation," African Arts 1 1 .2 

34 Ibid., 38. 

35 Ibid. 

36 W A. Han, "Masks with Metal-Strip 
Ornament from Sierra Leone," Afican AitslQ.i 


37 QiiDtcxI 111 l.iii Viinsina, "I lie Kuba Kingdom 
(Zaire)," in Kin^ ofAfriau wis. l-j-na Bciinicrs .uid 
Hans-Joachim Koloss (M;uiscricht: I'oundation 
Kings of Afnca, 1992)73. 

38 Joseph Comet, "Masks among the Kiih.i 
I\x)plcs," in Face of thf Spirits: Miiihsjivni thf/jiire 
Btisiri, cxJs. Frank Hfrrcni.ui ,uicl C^onstantijn 
Petridis (Ghent: Snocck-Ducaju & /xx)n, 1993) 

39 Ibid., 136. 

40 Allen H Robens, "Insight, or Not Seeing is 
Beiie\ing," in M.irv' H. Ncx)ter, Secrecy: African Art 
That Conceals aw/ Rnra/s (New York. ii^d Munich: 
Tlie Museum tor African An and Munich, 

41 Tamara Northern, An of Cameroon, exhibition 
ait.ilogiie (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian 
institution Iraveling lixhibition Sers-ice [SITES], 

42 Ahcr Patrick McNaughton, "Secret Sculpmres 
ot the Komo: An and Power in B,im.uia Initiation 
Associations," in Working Papers in the Traditional 
Arts A (Philadelphia: Institute for tlie Study of 
Hum.m Issues, 19^9). 

43 Nooter 1993 (above n. 40). 

44 Tamara Northern, "Janus-Faced Crest Mask," in 
African Art Tlie Bttrbier-Miielkr Collection, ed. 
Werner Schmalenbach (Munich: Prestel, 1988) 185. 

45 Sarah Catherine Brett-Smith, "Speech Made 
Visible: The Irr^ular as a System of Meaning," 

in Empirical Stitdies of the ArtsLl (1984) 127-47. 

46 Ibid., 146. 

47 Ibid., 128. 

48 Viaoria Rovine, personal communication. 1 998. 

49 Patrick McNaughton, "The Shirts that M.inde 
Hunters Wear," African Arc 1 5.3 ( 1 982) 54-58, 9 1 . 

50 Sarah Catherine Bren-Smith, "Cloth as AmiJa: 
The Anomalous Style of Basiae Mud Cloths," 

paper prcsenitxl at the 1 I th Irienniiil Sjonposium 
on Alrican An, New, on the p.uiel 
"Written CAiIture: Script and Inscription in Arts ol 
Africa," chairvd by M;iry N(X)ter Rolx'rts, April 10, 

51 Rrett-Sinith 1 984 (above n. 45) 142. 

52 hberhard Msdier and L)renz Honiberger, Mitsks 
in Giiro Culture, lt>ory Cuiist, exhibition catalogue 
(New York ;ind Zurich: ITie &nter lor African An 
and the Museum Rietberg, 1986), cited p. 16. 

53 Ibid. 

54 Ixiren/ Homberger, [X'rson;i] commiiniauion, 

55 Susan Vogel, Battle: African Art Western Eyes, 
exhibition citiilogne (Nc-w Haven and Ijondon: 
\;ile University' Press in association with Ihe 
Museum for African Art, 1997) 138. 

56 Ibid., 140. 

57 Susan Vogel, communication, 1 998. 

58 Quotcxl in Vogel 199-^ (alx)ve n. 55) 138. 

59 Ibid., 196. 

60 Ibid., 1 95-96, and [XTson;il communication, 

61 Vogel 1997 (above n. 55) 1 99-202. 

62 Brigitte Menzel, GoUgeicichte atis Ghana. 
exhibition catalogue (Mascum ftir Volkerkunde, 
Berlin, Neuefblge \2, AhteilungAfricaWl 1968) 

63 Raymond A. SiKemian, "v-\kan Kuduo: Fomi and 
Function," in Akati Transfbrmatimv Problems in 
Glktniian Art History eds. Dorun H. Ross and Rioth 
F Ciiurani (Los Angeles: UC^I A Mu-seiim of Ciilairal 
History, Monc^raph Series 21, 1983) 1 1-12. 

64 Ibid. 

65 Doran H. Ross, communication, 1998. 

66 Recorded by Emile Torday in the early 

twentieth century and cited in David Binklcy, 
"Ceph;iIomoqihic Palm Wine ( !ups, ' in Iretisures 
from the Africa- Miisettm, linniren, exhibition 
cat;ilogue (lervurcn: Royal Museum for (x-ntral 
Africa, 1995)342^3. 

67 Ibid., 342. 

68 Ibid. 

69 After Pcmberton 1 982 (above n. 9) 1 62. 

70 Herlxn M. Cole, "Riders of Power: Ilie 
Mounted Ix-ader, ' in Icotb: IcU-als and PouHrrin the 
Art of Africa, exhibition catalogue (Washington. 
D.C., and Ixindon: Smith.sonian Institution Pres.s, 
1989) 116-35. 

''1 John IVmlx-non III, " Ihe Oyo Empire," in 
Drewai, Pemlxnon, and Abiodun 1989 (above n. 

3) 158-59. 

72 Babatunde Liw;il, person;d communication, 

73 Drewai, Pemlxnon, aiul Abiodun 1989 
(above n. 3) 33. 

74 Babatunde Liw;il, persond communication, 

75 Dre%val, Pembenon, and .Abiodun 1 989 
(above n. 3) 33. 

76 I>)uglas Fraser .uxl Herben M. Cole, African Art 
and Leadashtp (Madison: Univcrsit)' of Wisconsin 
Press, 1972) 326; also cited in Nanc)' Ingram 
Nooter, " Africui High-fticked StooLs: A 

I ransculairal Ihidition," Tribal Arts 2.3 ( 1 995) 46. 

77 Nooter 1995 (above n. 76) 46-60. 

78 Allen F Roberts, "Nyamwezi figure," in Art and 
Ufr in Africa, exhibition catiilogue, ed. C-hristophcr 
D. Roy (Seatde: Ilie Universit)' of Washington 
Press for The Universit)' of Iowa Museum of An, 

79 Allen F Roberts, personal communication. 1998. 


so Niino' Ingnuii Nootcr, [ aininiuiiic.uion, 

81 Allen r. Ri)lxTts, "The Social and Historiail 
Qmtcxtsonabwa An," in 7 he Rising of a New 
Moon: A Q-iinny of'Iiihivii Art. cxiiibirion cauilogiic 
(Seattle: Uiiixersit)' o[ WashingiDii Press lor the 
Universit)' ol Michigjin Miiseiim ol An, Ann 
Arbor, 1985). 

82 Nooter 1995 (abo%e n. 76) 46-60. 

83 Cited p. 2^ in Monni Ad;uns, "Kuba 
Embroidered Clodi," AfriamArts 12.1 (1978) 
24-39, 106. 

84 Ibid., 30. 

85 Ibid., 34. 

86 Monni .^dams, "Be^'ond S\Tnmetr\' in Middle 
.^fricin Design," Afinwi Ajts 22.1 (1981) 34-43, 

8~ R(_)ben Harris Thompson, Afiicaii Art in Motion 
(Los Angeles: Universit)' of California Press, 1974) 
10-1 1 and Adiims 1981 (above n. 86). 

88 Cited p. 23 in Eberhard Fischer, "Dan Forest 
Spirits: Masks in Dan Villages," African Arts 1 1 .2 
(1978) 16-23,94. 

89 Ibid., 23. 

90 Ibid., 18. 

91 Ibid., 19. 

92 Ibid., 22-23. 

93 Anita Glaze, An and Death in a Senitfi VilLige 
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981) 158. 

94 Anita Glaze, personal communicuion, 1 998. 

95 Ibid. 

96 Ibid. 

97 Ibid. 

98 Quoted p. 62 in VC^n MacGafiey, "The Eyes of 
Understanding: Kongp Minkisi," in Astonishment 

andPowci; exhibition auJogiie (Washington, D.C.: 
Smitiisoniiui Instinition Press, 1993) 21-103. 

99 Diinja Hersiik, Sontye: Masks and Figim- Smlpivn' 
(London: Ethnographiai, 1985) 1 18-22). 

100 MacC^irtcy 1993 (above n. 98). 

1 1 L^unja Hersak, "Nkishi statues," in Master- 
pieces fivni Gnitral Afiica: The Terimvn Museum, 
exhibition Gitalogiie (New York and Munich: 
Prestel, 1996) 174-75. 

1 02 Allen F. Roberts, Animals in African Art: From 
the Familiar to the Maweloiis, exhibition catalogue 
(New York and Miuiich: The Museum for African 
An and Prestel, 1995). 

103 Roberts and Roberts 1996 (above n. 2) 204. 

104 Michael Harris, "Resonance, Transformation, 
and Rhyme: The An of Renee Stout," in 
Astonishment a>id Poive!- (above n. 98) 107-53. 

105 Quoted p. 277 in David Binkley, "The Teeth 
of N)'im: The Elephant and Ivory in Kuba Art," in 
Elephant: The Aninujl and its Ivoiy in Afiican 
Culture, ed. Doran H. Ross, exhibition catalogue 
(Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 

106 Ibid. 

107 Ibid. 

108 Jan Vansina, quoted in Adams 1978 (above n. 
83) 27, 30. 

109 Binkley 1992 (above n. 105) 286-88. 

1 1 lx)uis Perrois, Arts du Gabon: L'sAits PLutiqucs 
du Bassiii de /'0^oo/«''(Arnouville: Arts d'Afrique 
Noire iind Paris: O.R.S.TO.M., 1979). 

111 Ibid., 100. 

1 12 William Rubin, 'Primitivism' in 20th Centwy 
Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modmi, vol. 1 
(New York; The Museum of Modern An, 1 984) 

1 1 3 T. Theuws, "Le Styx ambigu," Bulletin du 
Centre d etudes despmhlhnes sociaux indigenes 8 1 
(1968) 11. 

1 14 Allen E Roberts, Threshold: African An on the 
Verge (forthcoming). 

1 1 5 Leon Siroto, "The Face of the Bwiti," African 
Arts\.\(\ 968) 22-27, 86-89, 96. 

1 16 Alain Chaffin and Francois Chaffin, TAnKota: 
Les figures de reliquaires (Meudon , 1 979) . 

1 17 Alisa LaGamma, personal communication, 1 998. 

1 18 Siroto 1968 (above n. 1 15) 88. 

1 19 E. E. Evans-Pritchard, "The Dance," in 
Africa 1.4 (1928) 447, cited in Enid Schildkrout 
and Curtis A. Keim, African Reflections: Art fivm 
Northeastern Zaire, exhibition catalogue (Seattle and 
London: University of Washington Press, in 
association with the American Museum of Namral 
History, New York, 1990)211. 

120 James Clifford, Writing Culture: The Poetics 
and Politics of Ethnography, ed. J. Clifford and 
G. E. Marcus (School of American Research 
Advanced Seminar; Berkeley, Los Angeles, 
London: University of California Press, 1990). 

121 Roland Barthes, "The Face of Garbo," in A 
Barthes Reader (New York: Hill and Wang, The 
Noonday Press, 1982)74. 

1 22 Susan Stewan, On honing. Nanatives of the 
Miniature, the Gigantic, the Soitvenir, the Collection 
(Durham and London: Duke University Press, 
1993) 127. 



ahiijit iii.irk.s, 1 S 

(ijiu ancestral trcasiir)', 37 

alie kora masks, }>}> 

altar, fiinerar)', 17 

Akan pcopk-s, Ghana: Akua ba figure, 1 3; 
A'//^«o vessel, 3') 

Akua, 12 

akua hit figure, 1 3 

ancestors, 14, 4 S 

antelope, 39, 53, 55 

applique, 47 

Areogiin, 9 

Asante kingdom, Akan peoples, Ghana: 
/l^/<rt ^rf figure, 13; AW«o vessel, 39 

ase, life Force, 6-7, 1 5 

balamwezi, 45 

Bamana peoples, Mali: bogoLiiijini hunter's 
shirt, 29; Komo masks, 27 

Bamgbose, 9 

Bangwa peoples, Cameroon: Night Society 
mask, 27 

Bantu-spe-aking peoples, 55, 59 

Baule peoples, Ivorv' Coast: gold pendant, 37; 
Rainbow mask, 33 

beads, 12,24,55,57 

Benin peoples, Nigeria, 19: Queen Mother 
head, 17 

Bete peoples, 3 1 

^«/;/w/>rf (magical substances), 55 

blacksmith, 1 5 

boar, 53 

/'o^o/f//;^«/ (mud-dyed textile design), 29 

brass, 17, 24; sheeting, 61 

bronze. See brass. 

Bushoong peoples, 57; royalty, 25, 47 

l/ifili, Koi.i iiiiii.uion riles, 61 
BwDiini helniel lu.isk, 25 

camwood powder, 19, 41 

Chameleon, 53 

chieftaincy, 23, 45 

children, 13 

chip carving, 45 

cloth. See bogoLinfini, skirt. 

copper, 38; lost-wax casting, 17, 39; sheet 
copper, 23, 55, 61. See abohx^s. 

coral, 17 

cosmetic marks, 37. 5e'<'rtZvo scarification. 

cowrie shells, 4, 57 

Dan peoples, Liberia: Honibill mask, 51 

l^erain, Andre, 59 

daim, Mangbetu, 63 

dii, spirits, 51 

Dvaila, Islam i/ed Mande peoples, 39 

elephant, 57 

embroidery, 47 

Epa festival, 9; helmet mask, 9 

Equestrian. 5<r rider. 

ELsegie, Benin king, 17 

Fang peoples, Gabon: Ngontang mask, 59 
fimerals, 27, 37, 57; fiineran,' memorials, 61 

G^lfed^ Societ)': helmet mask, 1 5 
glass, 12 
gold, 37, 39 

(.tiill.iiiine, I'aiil, 59 
giin, spiritual possession, 43 
Guro peoples: (in mask, 31 

head, concepts of, 7 

Hehe peoples, 45 

histor)', preservation of, 25. See abo memory. 

Hornbill, 51,53 

horse, 43 

hunter's shirt, 29 

hyena, 53 

Idia, Benin queen mother, 17 

Ifa, Yoruba divination cult, 1 9, 43 

Igogo festival, 1 9 

ikharo, 17 

initiation, 23, 53, 61 

iron, 15; sheet, 61 

Islamic influences: metal basins, 39; talisman 
shirts, 29 

ivory, 19, 57 

iwa (essential nature), 7 

lye Oba, title, 17 

Janus figure, 6 1 

Kabemba, 23 

Katomla, 23 

kingship, 6, 19, 27, 47; and drums, 63; dual 
gender of, 19 

Kongo peoples, 55 

Kota peoples, Ciabon: reliquar)' figure, 61 

Kponyungo headdress, 53 


Kiilxi [xxiplcs. Democratic Republic of Congo: 
'>'^; B\vot)iii helmet mxsk, 2S; Mukenga 
headdress, 57; p.ilm w ine cup, 4 1 ; 
woman's skirt, 47 

ktiduo vessel, 39 

Kulele, Senuto \voodcar\ers' guild, 53 

leather, 24 

leopard, 39, 57 

Luba peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo, 


luguru peoples, Tanzania: high-backed stool, 45 

Mangbetu peoples. Democratic Republic of 
Congo: slit drum 

masks, 7, 15, 23, 25, 31, 33, 51, 57, 59; can 
change identit)', 5 1 

masquerades, 15, 33, 47, 51, 57; Epa, 9; 
Gbagba, 33 

memot)', 25 

men, roles of 29, 47, 5 1 

metal: 32, 55, 61, 63. See also hizss, copper, wire. 

Modern art, influence of African art on, 5, 59 

Modigliani, Amedeo, 59; Portrait of Paul 
Guillaume, 59 

moon, 45 

mothers, motherhood, 9, 13, 15, 17, 45 

mud cloth, 47 

Mukenga, 57 

Musee National d'Art Moderne, Paris 

Musee des Arts Africains et Oceaniens, Paris 

Mwash aMbooy, 25, 57 

Nakunte Diarra, bogolanfini zxiisi, 29 

National Museum of Ivory Coast, 33 

Ndcngese peoples, 57 

Night Society, 27 

Ngady mwaash, 25 

nganga, ritual specialist, 55 

nkaka, 7 

Nkishi, power figures, 55 

Ngontangmask, 59 
nyartui, life force, 29 
Nyamwezi peoples, 45 
nyim, paramount rulers, 57 

Obatala, creator god, 43 

Odun Oro fesrival, 6 

Ogun, god of iron and warfare, 1 5, 43 

ojun-inu, inner face, 9 

Olowo, Owo king, 1 9 

"Open Jaws, " 53 

Orangun-Ila, 6 

Oromila, Benin divination cult, 19 

ori, destiny, 1 9 

oriki, praise songs, 9 

Osun, goddess, 9 

(?n<« vessel, 19 

Owo peoples: shrine figure, 1 9 

Oyo peoples, 43 

palm wine cup, 41 
pelemaiVs, 15 
Picasso, Pablo, 59 
Poro society, 23, 53 
proverbs, 44, 53 

Queen Mother head, Benin kingdom, 17 

raffia, 47, 55, 57 

Rainbow mask, 33 

Ram, 53 

reliquary figure, 61 

rider, 43 

ritual precautions for handling masks and 
figures, 27, 55 

scarification, 13, 15, 17,31,41 

secrecy, 27 

Senufo peoples. Ivory Coast: Kponyungo 

headdress, 53 

Shango, god of thunder and lightning, 43 

Shoowa peoples, 57 

shrine(s),7, 13, 19, 31 

skirt, 47 

Songye peoples. Democratic Republic of Congo: 
Nkishi figace, 55 

stool, royal, 45 

Stout, Renee, 55 

Swahili peoples, 45 

Tabwa peoples, 45 

Temne peoples. Sierra Leone: Kabemba 
initiation mask, 23 

tool, red powder, 4 1 

Tshwa Pygmy, 25 

twins, 9 

Vlaminck, Maurice, 59 

water, 23, 39 

weaving, 47 

wire, 12, 61 

witchcrafi:, 15, 53 

women, roles of 29, 45, 47, 5 1 . See also mothers. 

wood objects, 41, 45, 63; carved figures, 12, 43, 
55, 61; chip-carving technique, 45; masks and 
headdresses, 9, 15, 23, 27, 31, 33, 51, 53, 59 
Woot, founder of Kuba peoples, 57 
writing, indigenous, 23 

Yaure peoples. Ivory Coast: Rainbow mask, 33 

Yoruba peoples, Nigeria, 7, 9, 19: Epa helmet 
mask, 9; Gelede Society helmet mask, 17; horse 
and rider figure, 43 

Zamle, 3 1